For employers and HR professionals, 2022 has been a year of significant changes and major developments in many aspects of employment Law, and the case law reflects this. In 2022 we saw new legislation enhance employee rights and the WRC awarding a claimant the largest award in its history and, in two other cases, made it clear that it was not afraid of awarding six figures’ sums when deemed appropriate.
Below, we have reviewed some of the more important and noteworthy decisions from the WRC and in Employment Law;
6 Figure Awards
A Sales Executive v A Software Company
In June 2022, the WRC awarded the largest sum ever for an unfair dismissal case. The claimant was awarded €329,199.00. The Employee was dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct, following bullying allegations.
The WRC found that despite the fact that there was an employee handbook in place, the employee received no formal warning in line with the process set out in the handbook. In short, the company failed to follow the terms of the handbook and its own procedures.
The award was high as it took the employee 22 months to find alternative employment, partially due to the “niche sector” and partially due to the reason for the dismissal.
This should be a lesson to employers that ensuring adherence to their existing policies and procedures is crucial.
Walsh v Econocom Digital Finance
Here the WRC awarded €120,000.00 for an Unfair Dismissal. Whilst the Adjudicator accepted that it was a genuine redundancy situation and that any appeal would likely be a futile exercise, it found that no credible explanation was given for the decision of the managers not to engage with the Complainant to identify a suitable alternative role or to extend his notice period so that he could find another job.
This serves as a reminder to employers of the importance of consulting with employees in relation to any reasonable alternative roles that may be available should their existing roles be declared redundant.
Reddy v Ardbrook Redundancy ADJ 29419
In this case, the WRC awarded a manager €119,000.00 in an award for unfair dismissal, after finding that the employee was dismissed “under the cloak of Redundancy”. Further, the WRC found that there were procedural errors in the redundancy process as admitted by the company.
While the facts in this case vary, it shows that the WRC is not afraid of making substantial awards where there are procedural flaws in the dismissal of an employee.
Data Protection Commissioner v Doolin  IECA 117.
In 2022 the Court of Appeal considered the use of CCTV footage in internal disciplinary investigations. The Court of Appeal reaffirmed the dangers of the use of CCTV for employee monitoring and using CCTV for a purpose not specified by the employer to the employees.
The Court held that the Data Protection Commission (DPC) was incorrect to state that the CCTV footage was only processed when it was viewed by the employer. In fact, it found it was processed three times:
a) it was initially processed when it was recorded;
b) it was then processed once more when it was accessed by the investigators; and
c) processing then occurred a third time when data of dates and times were set out in the final disciplinary report.
Ultimately the Court felt that the concept of notifying the employee of the purpose for which CCTV was being used was central to the case, and data can only be used for the purpose of processing at or before the time the data (CCTV) was collected, and the purpose cannot be remedied after the fact.
This is a reaffirmation and strong reminder that businesses need to have effective and compliant data protection policies and CCTV policies, which clearly identify how and when such data can be used.
Keating V Camfil
Finally, in an interesting case, the WRC found that an employee, who was dismissed for being on holiday while being unable to work due to a bad back, lost her unfair dismissal case. However, she was awarded €3,900.00 for withheld annual leave and public holiday entitlements.
This is an important case; in that it clearly shows that an employee’s annual leave and public holiday entitlements are theirs and cannot be withheld by the employer for any reason.
As always, at MSS - the HR People we are here to advise you on any of the matters outlined in this update.