Workplace Relations Commission: Woman with 17 years’ service awarded nearly €7,000 for unfair dismissal
A woman who worked as a financial controller for an engineering firm for over 17 years when she was unfairly dismissed has been awarded €6,680 in the Workplace Relations Commission.
Finding that the woman was unfairly selected for redundancy before being summarily dismissed, Adjudication Officer Gaye Cunningham said the redundancy process was not fair or transparent, and refused to make a finding on the company’s assertion that the complainant was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct.
The complainant was employed as a financial controller with the respondent engineering company for over 17 years when she was advised that she was being made redundant. In June 2017, she was given an exit date of 31 December 2017, and provided with statutory lump sum calculations. The complainant was informed that she would be given a meeting with the respondent in September 2017 to further discuss the matter, however, this meeting did not materialise, and the complainant was given no indication as to whether there was a future for her in the company. No alternatives to redundancy were considered in advance of the complainant being made redundant.
The complainant submitted that other employees who were more junior than her, and who had less service, were kept on in their employment and she felt as though she was being unfairly selected for redundancy. The complainant believed that the respondent acted unfairly and unreasonably, and that the process for selecting redundancy lacked transparency.
As a result of work-related stress, anxiety, depression, and an ability to sleep; the complainant went on sick leave on 26 October 2017. On 15 November 2017, the complainant was requested “to attend a disciplinary process to discuss her absence from work and alleged inconsistencies in payroll deductions” – a disciplinary prior to her redundancy exit date which she believed was unwarranted, the purpose of which was to circumvent any redundancy payment.
The respondent submitted that a genuine redundancy existed, but that before the complainant’s exit date, the respondent believed that the complainant had committed an act of gross misconduct and was in breach of her employment – resulting in her summary dismissal. As a result of the complainant’s summary dismissal due to gross misconduct and breach of trust, the respondent contended that she was not entitled to any redundancy payment, pursuant to s.14 of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967:
“…an employee who has been dismissed shall not be entitled to redundancy payment if his employer, being entitled to terminate that employee’s contract of employment without notice, by reason of the employee’s conduct, terminates the contract because of the employee’s conduct.”
In any event, the respondent maintained that the redundancy selection process was fair and transparent.
Considering Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, Adjudication Officer Cunningham found that the complainant had been unfairly selected for redundancy and upheld her complaint. After reviewing the redundancy process conducted by the respondent (which had been handled by the Senior Vice President), Adjudication Officer Cunningham said that there was an onus on the employer to demonstrate that the process was fair and transparent.
Noting that three junior staff members were selected to take on new roles created in the restructuring process, Adjudication Officer Cunningham said there was no evidence of a matrix of skills and service and the normal components which go to make up a fair selection process undertaken in best practice employments. He said there was very little evidence of consideration of alternatives to redundancy.
Adjudication Officer Cunningham declined to make a finding on the respondent’s assertion that the complainant was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct.
Considering the amount of compensation, Adjudication Officer Cunningham noted that the complainant had not worked since the termination of her employment and said it was “well established that in circumstances where there is no mitigation of loss, a limit is placed on compensation”. In the circumstances, Adjudication Officer Cunningham said it was just and equitable to award compensation in the amount of €5,333.
Considering the claim under section 6 of the Payment of Wages Act 1991 which involved a dispute over holiday pay, Adjudication Officer Cunningham found the complaint to be in part well founded and awarded compensation in the amount of €1,347.
- by Róise Connolly for Irish Legal News