The worker was dismissed by her employer (a media company) over an alleged breach of the company’s email usage policy. According to the company, the issue arose when the worker forwarded vulgar and inappropriate material to others. The lady in question was among a number of employees subjected to disciplinary proceedings on foot of a series of email misuse allegations.
The lady in question commenced employment in February 2008 with the organisation. Following an investigation into her company email usage, she was informed by letter on October 18th 2011 that she was being dismissed on grounds of misconduct.
The former employee lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Employment Appeals Tribunal in early 2013. Her case came before the Tribunal in 2014 at which point, the company challenged the EAT’s jurisdiction to hear the claim arguing that it was not within the relevant six month time limit provided for in the unfair dismissals legislation. The company argued that the date of dismissal was 18th October 2011.
However in a preliminary ruling of February 2015, the EAT held that the worker’s dismissal did not take effect until the organisation’s appeal process had concluded in September 2012, therefore her UD claim was within the required six month time limit.
In response the company sought orders restraining the Tribunal further hearing the claim based on its belief that the EAT had erred in law in holding that it had jurisdiction to hear and determine the claim.
In the High Court, the worker, through her legal representative, argued that the court should refuse the orders sought and allow her client’s case proceed before the EAT.
In his judgment in recent weeks, Mr Justice McDermott said the tribunal had fully considered the facts, materials submitted and legal submissions before reaching its conclusion that the dismissal only became effective on the conclusion of the appeal. He said he was satisfied the EAT’s submission was made within its jurisdiction.
Employers should be aware that this case turns on its own facts. The Employment Appeals Tribunal, in determining the preliminary issue in the case (UD13/2013) said that having carefully considered the issue and submissions made, it found that under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007, the claimant was entitled to proceed with her claim and was not precluded from prosecuting same.
The Tribunal based this preliminary determination on their view that the respondent should have dealt with the initial hearing of dismissal and related appeal sooner. The EAT found that the respondent was largely responsible for the delays in the process which were contrary to the claimant’s entitlement to natural, speedy and effective justice.
Moreover, the Tribunal noted that the worker’s contract of employment was silent on the effectiveness of the dismissal once issued and did not make clear that once an appeal was lodged, this did not act as a stay on dismissal. This created ambiguity which resulted in the claimant believing her dismissal was stayed pending the outcome of her appeal. The Tribunal supported her view.
Ibec Knowledge Centre
Monday, 20 November 2017