Richard Grogan: Time limit to bring complaints to the Workplace Relations Commission
Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan & Associates writes on the law around time limits in the Workplace Relations Commission.
In case ADJ-14610, a case of an administration co-ordinator and a health care provider, an issue arose as to whether a complaint had been lodged in time.
The Adjudication Officer held that the claim had been lodged outside the time scale of six months, and that waiting until the internal grievance procedure was finished was not an exceptional circumstance which justified an extension of time to lodge a complaint. This case highlights the importance of issuing a complaint early, even while an internal grievance is bring dealt with.
The AO in this case quoted the case of Brothers of Charity Services Galway v Ciaran O Toole, Labour Court determination EDA177, where the Labour Court stated:
“The Court cannot accept that deploying the Respondent’s internal procedures operates to prevent the Complainant from initiating the within complaint within the statutory time limit provided under the Act. Section 77 of the Act is very clear. It specifies that a person who claims to have been discriminated against may seek redress by referring the case to the WRC. Such a complaint should be in writing and submitted within the time limits provided for in Section 77 (5).”
The AO in this case also quoted the Labour Court determination EDA1621, Business Mobile Security Services Limited v John McEvoy, in relation to using internal procedures.
When the Workplace Relations Act 2015 was first brought by way of a bill to the Oireachtas, there were submissions that before issuing claims, employees should have had to use the internal grievance procedures. This was rejected by the then minister.
Some employees mistakenly believe that using the internal grievance procedures will stop the time running. This is incorrect. If an employee has a claim relating to any issue, it is always better to ensure the claim is lodged with the WRC. There is nothing to stop an employee, once the claim has been lodged and acknowledged by the WRC, to write to the WRC and advise them that the matter is subject to an internal grievance procedure and requesting that the matter is put on hold.
It has been held, in the past, that where an employer advises an employee that by using the internal procedures time will not deem time to run against the employee, then in those circumstances extensions of time have been granted.
It is our view that because of the way the legislation is drafted, regardless of matters, it is advisable always to ensure that the claim is lodged at the earliest date possible. The internal grievance procedures can then be used. Matters can be put on hold pending same being completed or the employee requesting that the case proceed for hearing.
It is useful that the law on this issue has again been clarified by the WRC.
- Richard Grogan is the principal solicitor at Richard Grogan & Associates Solicitors. You can subscribe to the firm’s monthly newsletter at grogansolicitors.ie.