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Workplace Relations Commission – Be Wary of Time Limits in Lodging Complaints

The recent case of Ervia v Deaglan Healy PW/19/55 concerned an appeal by the employer (Ervia) against a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) decision which found in favour of the employee concerning payment of a performance related award. The WRC awarded the employee €5,000. The employer appealed the decision and the Labour Court overturned the WRC decision and found that the employee was outside the time limit for lodging his complaint under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 (as amended) (namely 6 months) and that there were no reasonable grounds for extending the time limit to 12 months.The Labour Court did not accept that the “processing of an internal grievance can be considered as a cogent reason which prevented the lodging of a complaint under the Act in time. The Court is of the view that the Complainant cannot circumvent the time limit set out in the Act by seeking to rely on an internal procedure that did not prevent him from bringing his complaint within the statutory time limit. The Court addressed this issue in Brothers of Charity Services Galway v Kieran O’Toole[EDA 177] where it held:-“The Court cannot accept that deploying the Respondent’s internal procedures operated to prevent the Complainant from initiating the within complaints within the statutory time limit provided under the Acts.”The Court also did not accept that there was any obligation on the employer to advise the employee of the statutory time limit provisions of the Act. The employee informed the Court that he had already put his employer on notice that he was considering such a course of action. The Court was also of the view that “it is a fundamental principle that ignorance of one’s legal rights and responsibilities does not provide a justifiable excuse for a failure to bring a claim in time or to the appropriate body, as held by the High Court in Minister for Finance v CPSU and Ors, [2007] 18 ELR 36″.The award of €5,000 from the WRC was overturned in this case. 

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