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Employee Unfairly Dismissed Pursuant To Heated Discussion In Meeting Awarded €25,000

Facts: The Complainant was employed as a Senior Sales Executive by the Respondent on 7th June 2017 until 4th February 2019 when the Complainant’s employment was terminated. The Complainant took sick leave in January 2019 and upon his return to work, he met with his manager and the General Manager at which his concerns in relation to his working hours and rest breaks were addressed and he was satisfied with the outcome of that meeting. However, he was then asked to meet with the Managing Director of the Respondent Company. There was conflicting evidence as to what was stated at the meeting but there was a heated discussion at the ned of which  the Complainant was asked to handover the keys of the company car. The Complainant alleged that he was told that ‘he was done’ and asked to hand over the keys, while the Respondent alleged that the Complainant resigned and was then asked to hand over the keys as he would not need the company car. The Respondent contended that it made numerous efforts to ask the Complainant to return to work and reassured the Complainant that his job was still available for him. However, the Complainant gave evidence that while he was contacted, he was never reassured that his job was still available or that he was not dismissed.

Findings: Noting that there was a dispute on the material facts of the Case, the Adjudicating Officer pointed out that it was the Complainant’s duty to prove that he was dismissed by the Respondent. The Adjudicating Officer held, on the balance of probability, that during the ‘dismissal meeting’ in dispute, the discussions escalated to ‘acrimonious exchange’, where the Managing Director requested the Complainant to return the keys, as a result of which the Complainant left the meeting. The Adjudication Officer preferred the evidence of the Complainant and found that the Managing Director’s conduct at the meeting  was unambiguous and unconditional, which resulted in termination of employment by way of dismissal. The Respondent had argued that if the Managing Director did make any such alleged communication, which it denied, that it was done in the heat of the moment and was subsequently withdrawn. Referring to Willoughby -v- CF Capital Plc [2011] IRLR 985, the Adjudications Officer opined that the special circumstances in which a notice of dismissal can be withdrawn is when it is given in the ‘heat of the moment’ and hence it was important to know the intention of the Respondent subsequent to such discussion. The Adjudications Officer pointed out that there was compelling evidence from the Complainant that the Respondent did not indicate withdrawal of the notice of dismissal. Accordingly, the Adjudications Officer held that the Complainant was unfairly dismissed from his employment and awarded €25,000 as compensation to the Complainant. 

It should be noted that the Complainant secured a new job two months after his dismissal at a lower salary and the award of €25,000 is mainly in respect of future loss of earnings rather than the financial loss incurred as at the date of the hearing.

Note to Employers: This decision illustrates that it is for the party who wishes to withdraw the notice of termination, in circumstances where it was given in the heat of the moment, to do so immediately and unequivocally and to be able to prove that it did so. Therefore, in this case the Respondent should not only have called the Complainant immediately but should have sent him text messages and emails confirming that he was not dismissed and/or that his job remained available for him and kept copies of these communications.

https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/adj-00020747.html28th February 2020

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall

Fitzwilliam Place

Dublin 2.


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