Wednesday 20 September 2017

Dental nurse loses court challenge to Tribunal decision after claiming boss assaulted her

Ray Managh

A 58-year-old dental nurse, who alleged she had to quit her job because her dentist employer struck her with his closed fist, has lost a court challenge to a decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal dismissing her claim.

Ann O’Reilly was told in the Circuit Civil Court by Judge Matthew Deery that she had again failed to prove constructive dismissal against her former boss, Malahide dentist Dr Tom Hughes, or that there had been any element of assault by him.

Dr Hughes, of The Gallery Practice, Marine Court, St James Terrace, Malahide, told the court that, for safety reasons, he had moved Ms O’Reilly’s hand away from the operating button of a machine in the surgery while he was taking a patient’s dental impression

He told his counsel, Aaron Shearer, that he had done so to avoid the possibility of injury to anyone in the surgery, including Ms O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, of Strandville Lodge, Bremore Pastures Drive, Hamlet Lane, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, said Dr Hughes had struck her forcefully on the arm.  She was very upset and shocked but finished her days work.  She immediately contacted her solicitor and the gardai.

Judge Deery, dismissing O’Reilly’s appeal against the determination of the Tribunal, said that following the incident on 23rd January, last year, she had not returned to work.  Had she responded to approaches by fellow colleagues the matter could have been addressed to everyones satisfaction. She insisted on going down the legal road.

He accepted that Dr Hughes had at all times wanted her to return to work and that Ms O’Reilly, who had worked at the surgery for 14 years, had insisted on him admitting what he had done and apologizing to her.

Judge Deery said the matter had been investigated by the gardai.  They had spoken to the patient who had been in the dental chair at the time of the incident and who had not noticed anything. If a fist had been raised and struck as Ms O’Reilly had said, the patient might have noticed. 

He said evidence from the patient would have been helpful to Ms O’Reilly’s case if there had been more to the incident than simply a movement or push.  Her allegations of a blow to her arm with a raised fist had been very much disputed by Dr Hughes and she had failed to establish her case as a matter of probability.

 The judge said he understood she was upset and had spoken to her solicitor but there had been equally cogent evidence from Dr Hughes as to what happened.   There had been no indication in medical reports of bruising to her arm.

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