Saturday 22 October 2016

Legal firm asks judge to overturn €80,000 compensation award to one of its former solicitors

By Ray Managh

Published 15/06/2015 | 17:45

Dublin's Four Courts
Dublin's Four Courts

A legal firm today asked a judge to overturn an €80,000 compensation award to one of its former solicitors, who claims she had been set up to be “the one” selected for redundancy.

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Judge Jacqueline Linnane heard in the Circuit Civil Court that Margaret MacEvilly had won an unfair dismissal action in the Employment Appeals Tribunal against Kod/Lyons Solicitors after having been made redundant in 2012.

She told her counsel Conor Power SC that her former boss Aine Flynn had selected a trio of solicitors from which one would be let go and it turned out to be her.  One of the others had been promoted to a position of salaried partner and given a €10,000 wage rise.

MacEvilly said that when asked at a meeting what she felt she could particularly bring to the practice if retained, she had told Flynn she felt the decision had already been made and added:  “It’s not up to me to justify my position.”

Barrister Tom Mallon, counsel for Kod/Lyons, told the court that Ms MacEvilly had read a written statement to the final management meeting considering redundancy and in which she said she was “not prepared to partake in the added humiliation of begging for my job.”

MacEvilly said matters had deteriorated between herself and Flynn after she had refused to work a rostered day over an August bank holiday.  She claimed Flynn had stated her attitude was being noted and that she was “imperilling” her future.  Ms Flynn later in evidence denied using this term.

MacEvilly denied, when cross-examined by Mr Mallon, that her view of the selection process for redundancy consisted only of an elaborate theory of a management conspiracy against her.

Flynn told the court she had acquired the company of former leading criminal lawyer Terence Lyons, who died unexpectedly in 2004 and for whom she and Ms MacEvilly worked.

Following adverse national economic developments and a 40 per cent cut in legal aid payments for criminal cases, which accounted for 80 per cent of the company’s practice, she had been approached by O’Doherty Kelleher solicitors about a merger which had formally taken place in 2012.

There had been job losses and Ms MacEvilly had been included in a pool of three solicitors who had been told redundancy was going to arise because it was not commercially sustainable to continue with their then staffing levels.

The partners in the newly merged company had taken the decision to let Ms MacEvilly go.  She had never been told she had imperilled her job future by refusing to work a rostered bank holiday day.

Mr Power, who appeared with barrister Francis Drumm, said it was for the court to decide if the company had acted fairly and reasonably in selecting Ms MacEvilly for redundancy.  Judge Linnane reserved her decision.

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