For bosses, a tribunal can be truly horrible
Whether they are nasty or nice, an employer can face losing big if a member of staff takes a case against them, says Roisin Burke
Published 24/07/2011 | 05:00
WE'VE all had them, so it's incredible that no one has brought rotten employers like those in the film Horrible Bosses (opening in Ireland this weekend) to the big screen before.
But even bosses that aren't the cartoon tyrants like Colin Farrell's coke-snorting, comb-over-sporting, pot-bellied lunatic of the movie can end up on the unpleasant end of a tribunal claim. And unlike in the film, the employees in these recent cases didn't resort to plotting murder to get even when they had a grievance -- they just took a case.
Imagine doing the dirty work of restructuring and meting out redundancies, then unceremoniously getting the boot yourself? As CEO of three of tech firm XSIL's companies, Brian Farrell helped steer them in choppy times. Then one day, he says he was advised -- by email -- that he would be laid off himself.
The colleague who sent the email later got his job, the Employment Appeals Tribunal heard. Mr Farrell was awarded €175,000 for unfair dismissal, holiday pay due and for lack of notice.
No one from XSIL attended the hearing.
Eircom customer-accounts employee Patricia O'Brien exceeded her targets by €11m but was marked as "underperforming" by her bosses. The telco had to cough up €55,000 and raise her pay to match that of two male colleagues in similar roles after an Equality Tribunal ruling in her favour.
Eircom countered that the skill and responsibilities for Ms O'Brien's role were less than those of her colleagues and that gender wasn't an issue. However, the tribunal found that she was engaged in "like work" and that gender was indeed a factor.
Even small-business bosses can be subject to cases costing thousands.
A Co Louth hair and beauty salon manager was awarded more than €32,000 after she was fired when she refused to give another employee the elbow. Lorraine O'Reilly's employer called her to a meeting and dismissed her for not fulfilling her duties as a manager.
Sandra Brady and John Dyke of The Retreat Hair and Beauty Salon in Drogheda didn't respond to or appear at the tribunal hearing that awarded Ms O'Reilly for unfair dismissal and pay in lieu of notice.
You'd think religious discrimination would be a thing of the distant past by now, but no. When Knocktemple National School, of Virginia, Co Cavan, discovered that the new teacher it had hired, Michelle McKeever, was a member of the Church of Ireland, the Catholic primary pulled its job offer to her.
The school claimed that the post had to be re-advertised because the principal or the chair did not have the board's authority to fill it and it denied any discrimination. However an equality officer found discrimination on religious grounds that breached employment law.
AIB had to reinstate a former employee when it was found that he had been unfairly dismissed. Brian Purcell was a junior manager in the capital markets division until he was fired after a disciplinary procedure when the bank discovered that he had accessed nine accounts of staff to check if they had received a bonus that he didn't get.
Mr Purcell had been involved in a whistleblowing when he uncovered unusual accounting transactions and reported them, but the tribunal didn't accept that his use of the "speak-up" policy "had any bearing on the ultimate reasons" for his dismissal.
AIB expressed concern that there could be a perception that whistleblowers could face having bonuses withheld or being dismissed but the tribunal was "absolutely satisfied that this did not happen".
However, it held that the dismissal was "a disproportionate response" and a more reasonable approach would have been to suspend him without pay for six months.
It instructed that Mr Purcell should be rehired in a similar position and on a similar salary, with his pay backdated for six months.
Sunday Indo Business