This case was successfully appealed to the Labour Court by the employer.
The Labour Court held that the dismissal was in fact fair, in effect, wiping out the Complainant employee's award.
WRC hearing – Facts
The facts relate to a disciplinary process that was commenced against the employee as a result of him allegedly removing and failing to pay for products from the employer's store. The employee was accordingly dismissed for gross misconduct.
The fact that the employee had taken the products without paying for them was not in dispute between the parties.
However, at the hearing, the Complainant argued that he in fact suffered from PTSD and the prescribed medication for this disability had a side effect that can cause forgetfulness. He alleged that he forgot to pay for those products as a result of the medication.
The Complainant, as part of the employer's investigation, was referred to an Occupational Health Specialist who concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, he did not believe that the medication prescribed to the Complainant explained the failure to pay for products.
The WRC adjudicator stated that:
"…I have concluded that the employee’s account is credible and accept his explanation of what occurred and that he did not take product rather his intent was to pay for the product when the tills opened several hours later. The circumstantial evidence such as the early start of the shift, the till being closed, his disability and the side effect of prescribed medication are consistent with that proposition."
The WRC adjudicator also found that the evidence before him did not support the employer's position that the decision to dismiss fell within the band of reasonableness.
The WRC awarded €7,500 compensation.
Labour Court hearing – Appeal
During the hearing, the Court noted that the Complainant had provided the Respondent employer with a note from his doctor advising of his medical condition and of the medication he was taking.
However, crucially, the Court highlighted that the note merely stated that a side effect of that medication is forgetfulness. The Court further found that the note did not state that the Complainant himself suffered from this side effect. Neither did the note state that the condition from which the Complainant suffered could, itself, could result in forgetfulness.
The Court ultimately held that there were substantial grounds to justify the dismissal of the Complainant and that the dismissal was within the range of responses which could reasonably be expected of a reasonable employer. It also found that the disciplinary processes employed by the Respondent were fair and were conducted appropriately.
The Court found that the dismissal was not unfair and overturned the original WRC decision.
This case serves a reminder of the powers which the Labour Court has to set aside decisions of the WRC. It also demonstrates that even if either party is unsuccessful at WRC stage, the Labour Court may draw a different conclusion, from the same set of facts, on appeal.
Written by: Greta Siskauskaite
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