Richard Grogan on employment law: Procedural fairness
Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan & Associates writes on the importance of procedural fairness to unfair dismissal cases.
The Labour Court in the case of Dromina Community Play Group / Dromina Community Council Limited and Viktoria Morey UDD1715 is an important decision of the Labour Court where an award of €22,000 was awarded. The Labour Court varied the decision of the Adjudication Officer. It is unclear as to what the original Adjudication Officers decision was.
The case goes into considerable detail in relation to the law on this matter. It is however to be noted that the Court held that the decision to dismiss was made without regard to a number of factors namely the four years unblemished record, the complainants request through her Solicitor for reasonable time, the substantial compromise made by the employee on other issues in dispute. No consideration being given to the question as to whether there was any alternatives to dismissal, an acknowledged lack of dismissal procedures and the complainant not being warned that failure to sign the contract would result in her summary dismissal within days.
The Court pointed out that it could not accept that the employee repudiated her own contract of employment.
The Court found that the provisions of the Act do apply in this case. The Court held that a contract was in negotiation by the parties, The respondent employer was represented by both the HR Consultant and by their own legal advisors. Yet when the employee sought time to get her own legal advice this time was not provided to her.
The Court took the view that the respondent employer was unduly influenced by a looming deadline that may have had little impact and in any event could potentially have been circumvented by asking the complainant to sign the contract without the offending terms. The Court found the contract could then have been the subject of further negotiations between the parties in a timely fashion without the pressure of an impending dismissal with the possibility of recourse to third party arbitration if necessary.
The Court found that the actions of the employer were not within the range of reasonable responses open to it and that substantial grounds did not exist to justify the complainant’s dismissal.
This is a very timely reminder by the Labour Court on the importance of fair procedures.