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Supreme Court confirms legal standing to challenge constitutionality of WRC

The legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will now proceed in the High Court after the decision of Justice Mary Finlay-Geoghegan ruling that the Claimant, Mr Zalweski, had the locus standi to take the case. Mr Zaweski argues that the procedures of the WRC deprive claimants of natural justice and fair procedures and his reasons including that the adjudication officers do not have to be legally qualified, that evidence is not given under oath and there is no penalty for giving false evidence.

The Applicant was granted a right to appeal to the Supreme Court from the High Court, leapfrogging the Court of Appeal, as the matter was of “general public importance”. In his case, Mr Zalewksi challenged the decision of the adjudication officer. He submitted that the hearing was adjourned after only ten minutes, with no opportunity for oral evidence or cross-examination being given. The adjudicator then issued a decision in the case despite the fact that it had been adjourned. The WRC subsequently described this as an “administrative error on the part of the adjudication officer”.

Mr Zalewski subsequently brought his case to the High Court seeking locus standi to pursue a challenge to the constitutionality of certain sections of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977. The High Court judge accepted the WRC’s submission that they would annul the previous decision and organise a new hearing before a different adjudication officer as being an adequate solution. Therefore, it was held that Mr Zalewski was not be entitled to challenge the constitutionality of the WRC.

Ms Justice Finlay-Geoghegan felt that the High Court judge seemed to have misunderstood the nature of the constitutional challenge and ultimately overturned the High Court ruling concluding that Mr Zalewski did have legal standing and the case will be sent back to the High Court for hearing. However, Ms Justice Finlay-Geoghegan stressed that the decision only established the Claimant’s qualification to pursue his constitutional challenge but did not determine the arguments which the appellant was entitled to pursue in that challenge.

29th March 2019

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.


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