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Largest award ever for unfair dismissal

5th July, 2022

In a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) decision — A Sales Executive -v- A Software Company — the WRC awarded the sum of €329,199 to an employee in what is understood to be the largest award for unfair dismissal ever made in Ireland.

The action related to an employee who was dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct, following allegations of bullying. The employee had approximately 34 months’ service with the employer and asserted that his annual remuneration was €306,294.

The employee complained that his dismissal was unfair for various reasons including the following:

  • That the investigation leading to his dismissal did not follow the procedures as set out in the employee handbook,
  • That the employee should have been given the right to legal representation,
  • That the employer had made its mind up to dismiss the employee before completing the internal disciplinary procedure.

The employer asserted that there had been both a full and fair investigation and disciplinary process, with provision for an appeal. It submitted that the employee was warned that his behaviour was an issue and that it tried to deal with this issue at a local level without the need for escalation to a formal disciplinary procedure. The employer maintained that the employee’s behaviour worsened and thereafter the employer elected to suspend the employee pending further investigation.

An investigation followed and ultimately the employee was dismissed following an appeal.

In the WRC, the Adjudication Officer noted that he was required to consider whether the employer’s decision to dismiss the complainant was reasonable in the circumstances and whether it was substantively and procedurally fair.

In his decision the Adjudication Officer was critical of the employer’s failure to adequately warn the employee that his role was in jeopardy. In addition, the employer did not adequately engage with its own disciplinary policy and there was a lack of training provided to the employee regarding their bullying and harassment policy.

The Adjudication Officer found that the investigation failed to provide procedural fairness due to the lack of independence of the person, who decided to terminate the employee’s role.

In determining the extent of the award, the Adjudication Officer decided that the annual remuneration of the employee, as calculated by the employee, was reasonable. The employee was unemployed for over two years and the new role which the employee obtained is paid substantially less than that which he had with the employer.