Richard Grogan on employment law: Unfair dismissal and fair procedures

Richard Grogan
Richard Grogan

Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan & Associates writes on an important case involving an unfair dismissal.

In Case UDD1735, being Pottle Pig Farm and Panasov, the Labour Court had to deal with a case involving an unfair dismissal. Both the employer and the employee were legally represented by solicitors and counsel.

The case is an interesting one for individuals to read as there is a comprehensive decision. There are some parts of that decision which we think are very noteworthy to comment on.

The Court concluded that the manner in which the decision was made to dismiss the complainant was void of any form of procedural fairness and offended against the principles of natural justice to which he was entitled.

The Court held that no investigation or Inquiry were carried out. The Court held that the employer had come to the conclusion that the complainant was guilty of a serious offence without giving him an opportunity to defend himself and/or to respond to the allegations made. The Court also pointed out that the employee was not allowed any representation and was given no right to appeal.

The Court held that the employee was dismissed in an insensitive manner as it was done over the phone.

The Court quoted the case of Gearon –v- Dunnes Stores Limited UD367/1988, where the EAT held:

“The right to defend herself and have her arguments and submissions listened to and evaluated by the respondent in relation to the threat to her employment is a right of the claimant and is not the gift of the respondent of the respondent or the Tribunal … As the right is a fundamental one under natural and constitutional justice; it is not open to this Tribunal to forgive its breach”

The Court held that it was of the view that a failure to properly investigate allegations of misconduct, or to afford an employee who is accused of misconduct a fair opportunity to advance a defence, will take the decision to dismiss outside the range of reasonable responses, thus rendering the dismissal unfair.

This is a very important decision of the Court. The representatives of the employer contended that procedural flaws alone could not render a dismissal unfair, as regards must be given to all the circumstances, particularly the substantive reason for dismissing the complainant.

The Labour Court has importantly in this case clearly set out the legislation and has confirmed that that submission could not stand.

The issue of procedural fairness is one that is constantly raised in employment law cases.

The Labour Court has, importantly in this case, restated in some detail the importance of procedural fairness.

This is most definitely a case which those interested in employment law do need to read.

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