- October 11, 2022
- Posted by: Martina
- Category: News
In a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) decision published on the 18th of August 2022, an employee lost a €90,000 Unfair Dismissal claim against Camfil Ireland Ltd.
In this article, Conor White, Employment Law Solicitor and Megan Bourton, Intern give an overview of the case and the WRC decision.
Tara Keating was employed by Camfil Ireland Ltd as a Purchasing Representative. Camfil Ireland Ltd engaged its disciplinary procedure against Mrs Keating following an allegation that she mislead the company with regard to her intention to attend an important conference, when she knew that she had a holiday booked for that time. On the 5th of September 2019 Mrs Keating sent a text to the Managing Director, Mr Paul Flanagan stating “My back went, and I am up the wall with the event coming up……. I am sorry for dropping this on you” subsequently commencing illness absence. The day before she sent this text, Mrs Keating had forwarded a copy of a booking confirmation for an upcoming holiday, under the name “Mrs Keating”, to her husband which was booked for the 14th to the 21st of September. Mrs Keating was set to make a presentation to the Irish hosted Camfil conference on the 16th of September. It was the company’s case that Mrs Keating misleadingly behaved as though she was intending to attend the conference, and did not submit a leave application in relation to the holiday booked. The emails which Mrs Keating had sent regarding her holiday booking were found by another employee who was required to access her account to follow up on an urgent delivery.
The second ground for disciplinary action was based on the discovery of an excessive amount of personal email exchanges in Mrs Keating’s work email. In particular, a large volume of emails were found in relation to two businesses which were of no connection to Camfil Ireland Ltd.
On the 30th of October 2019, Mrs Keating returned to work following her illness absence, and Camfil Ireland Ltd advised Mrs Keating that formal disciplinary procedures were being applied where an excessive volume of emails were sent and received through her work email as well the allegation that she had been misleading Camfil Ireland Ltd as to her required attendance at a conference on the 16th of September. Mrs Keating was suspended from duty with immediate effect in advance of a disciplinary hearing. The hearing was held on the 16th of January 2020. Mrs Keating proclaimed that the company was aware of the connection she had to the two businesses and was never told she could not use her work email in this regard. Mr. Dullaghan issued his disciplinary decision on the 30th of January 2020, and found her behaviour and actions over time amounted to gross misconduct. On the 24th of July, a final disciplinary appeal decision was issued which upheld the decision to terminate Mrs. Keating’s employment.
On the 20th of October 2020, a complaint was received by the WRC against Camfil Ireland Ltd for unfair dismissal based on a number of grounds. Mrs. Keating deemed her dismissal to be unfair for a number of reasons, mainly;
- That the dismissal was unfair under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977.
- That she was not provided with the particulars of her employment.
- That pay was deducted under section 6 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1994.
- That annual and public holiday pay is owed to her.
The WRC investigated each of these. It stated that Mrs. Keating mislead her employer as to her intention to attend a conference over a period of time. It also stated that her attempted justification for the use of her work email “severely damaged the relationship that has to exist between employer and employee “as she did not provide any evidence of permission to use the email in this manner. The WRC decided that the decision to dismiss Mrs. Keating was not unfair.
Mrs Keating claimed that she was never issued with a statement outlining the particulars of her employment, and therefore breached section 7 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994. The WRC decided that the claimant’s employment commenced four years prior to the introduction of this Act, and therefore declared the complaint not well founded. However, the adjudication officer did order Camfil Ireland Ltd to pay Mrs. Keating €3,900 for withheld sick pay, annual leave and public holiday entitlements.
This is an interesting decision recently made by the WRC. The fact that Mrs Keating was placed on administrative leave would appear to be a somewhat “heavy-handed” approach to progressing the Disciplinary Procedure in this case however the WRC do not appear to have engaged substantively with this decision by the employer. It remains to be seen whether this decision will be appealed by the employee.
A regular issue which arose in this case is that the employees’ terms and conditions of employment were missing. The employer avoided liability in this decision, but it once again shows the importance of safely storing employee contracts so that the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994 is not needlessly breached.
A strong message throughout this decision is that the use of fair procedures and a clear disciplinary process will help defend employers from claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. Employers should ensure that their disciplinary procedures are clearly set out to employees.
If you have a query in relation to this article, or a particular matter, please contact a member of our Employment Law Team.