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Labour Court awards €21,000 for Unfair Dismissal Regardless of Employee Having Refused to Return to Work When Deemed Fit

In the recent decision of Brian McAllister v Organic Lens Manufacturing, UDD2137, the Labour Court upheld the decision of Unfair Dismissal but increased the award from €16,200 to €21,000 despite stating that both parties had a part to play in the dismissal.

Facts: The Complainant was employed by the Respondent from 1997 until his dismissal on 6th June 2019. In February 2016 the Complainant was transferred to a new work role. The Complainant raised concerns that the new work location was having a detrimental effect on a health condition. The Complainant was moved to a training room while this concern was assessed. In January 2017 the Respondent’s medical advisors assessed the Complainant as fit to return to work in the role to which he had been assigned in February 2016. The Complainant disputed the assessment and remained on sick leave from March 2017 until his dismissal.

In April 2017 the Complainant lodged grievances against two manages, neither of which were upheld and the subsequent appeal was not upheld. The Complainant lodged a claim under the Industrial Relations Act which was referred to the Workplace Relations Commission, but a redundancy agreement was reached between the parties prior to the hearing. This agreement became the subject of dispute between the parties and was not executed.

The Respondent submitted that they provided the Complainant with a huge level of supports to the Complainant including multiple assessments with various medical professionals but submitted that the Complainant refused reasonable instructions to return to work on multiple occasions. The Respondent also created a role for the Complainant to allow him to remain in gainful employment while seeking to resolve his grievances. Furthermore, the Respondent engaged comprehensively with the Complainant’s representative as well as pausing for an external mediator to investigate the Complainant’s grievances. The Respondent submitted that they were left with no reasonable option but to terminate the Complainant’s employment.

Decision: The Court concluded that the dismissal of the Complainant was undoubtedly unfair as the Complainant had been denied completely his rights to fair procedure and natural justice as he was not afforded the right to a hearing or appeal. The Court did acknowledge that the although the decision was undoubtedly unfair, it did not arise in a vacuum and the fact that the Complainant did not return to work when deemed fit to do so would be regarded by most as “justification for some impatience, to put it mildly, on the part of the employer..”.

The Complainant sought re-instatement, but the Court concluded that compensation was the most appropriate remedy in the circumstances awarding the Complainant €21,000.

Takeaway for the Employers: Employers must ensure that they afford employees their right to fair procedures and natural justice. Despite the employee frustrating the process and the Respondent having spent a considerable amount of time and recourses to resolve this issue ultimately their failure to afford the employee the right to answer a charge and then refuse him an appeal could not be viewed as anything but unfair.

Link  –  https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2021/may/udd2137.html

Authors – Eva Lindsay and Anne O’Connell

27th May 2021

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

19-22 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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