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Constructive Dismissal and Workplace Stress

Constructive dismissal cases are generally very difficult to win as the onus or burden of proof is on the employee to show that it was reasonable for them to resign from their employment. Generally an employee is expected to exhaust all internal procedures including a grievance procedure before they resign,In this case the employee had been on sick leave following difficulties with a work colleague. The Workplace Relations Commission noted“A medical certificate citing workplace stress should be regarded as a red light or warning to an employer when first received. This duty of care goes to the heart of the contract between an employee and an employer in terms of obliging an employer to ensure the condition is assessed and identifying necessary supports or steps which may be required to allow the employee to return to work “The Adjudicator further noted “…..the employer must be able to demonstrate how they exercised their duty of care to an employee known to be under other stress at this time and most importantly about whom they had received a medical report of workplace stress in addition to which there was ongoing evidence of her stress and no evidence that it abated at any stage”.He concluded“…..the complainant co-operated fully with any measures put in place by the respondent to resolve the situation and in seeking a transfer it could be said she took the only practical step attempting to resolve the situation herself. It was the Respondent who failed to put in place a coherent approach to resolving the complainant’s situation and failed to follow their own procedures ,drifting in and out of the policy as set out on pages three and four in respect of resolving interpersonal disputes. The absence of any records or notes of any kind undermines the claim to have repeatedly and continuously advised the complainant of her right to make a formal complaint and is itself a breach of the Respondents own procedure for dealing with interpersonal conflict”.The claimant was awarded 8,400 euro for unfair dismissal.The case is a very useful summary of the legal tests applied in respect of constructive dismissal claims.

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