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Unfair Dismissal – Award of €41,000 to Senior Civil Servant

The Workplace Relations Commission recently published the decision of An Executive Officer v A Department of State ADJ00024800 which resulted in an award to a senior civil servant official of almost €41,000 for unfair dismissal. Of interest in the case was that the head of the government department went against the advices of a specially convened disciplinary panel to demote rather than dismiss the employee.

In this case the complainant employee was employed in the Civil Service since September 2006 and had previously worked with the Revenue Commissioners where he stated he was highly thought of by his work colleagues and had never any difficulties with performance or otherwise at work. Upon transfer to a new department, the employee stated that he began to experience problems with his new duties of employment and related issues. The employee was placed on a performance improvement plan and was subsequently issues with a written warning about his performance.

Further complaints about performance arose and the internal Civil Service Disciplinary Appeals Board recommended demoting the man to the role of clerical officer after the complaints about performance were upheld. Despite the recommendation the secretary general decided to dismiss the civil servant on the grounds of serious misconduct. The employee claimed that the dismissal was a “completely disproportionate penalty” and that he had been the victim of bullying by his superiors. He also alleged that the procedure used to dismiss him was in breach of the rules of fair procedure and natural justice. He also argued that the overturning of a DAB finding was extraordinary and almost unprecedented across the entire civil service”. The secretary general position was that the decision to dismiss was not taken lightly and that it was “from trivial matter that carried serious repercussive effects across the entire civil service”. He stated that the decision to dismiss was on the basis of serious performance issues and the fact that the employee had difficulty accepting “proper authority” and following certain work practices.

The Workplace Relations Commission found that the employee civil servant had been unfairly dismissed and it was at odds with “natural justice”.

The award of €40,878 was calculated on the basis of 54 weeks pay.

Employment Law Case Tip

Employers should always ensure that any dismissal is carried out in accordance with the rules of natural justice and fair procedure. Advice should be sought prior to and at all stages of a dismissal otherwise an employer could face an award of compensation of a maximum of two years salary (restricted to financial loss). Equally the Workplace Relations Commission have power to award reinstatement and reengagement.

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