News Courts

Thursday 28 August 2014

Tour guide loses €50,000 award for unfair dismissal after appeal

Tim Healy

Published 22/05/2014 | 16:32

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A TOUR guide's €50,000 award for unfair dismissal has been overturned by the High Court after a judge found she was not an employee of but an independent contractor to a travel company.

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Sabina Murphy, of Keelogues, Barntown, Co Wexford, had in 2012 been awarded €50,900 after a Circuit Court judge found she was an employee of Boston, Massachusetts-based Grand Circle Travel (GCT) and was covered by unfair dismissals legislation.  GCT provides guided tours of Ireland mainly for US tourists.

GCT appealed that decision to the High Court which today upheld the appeal and also ordered Ms Murphy to return a €10,000 payout she received by order of the Circuit Court pending GCT's appeal.

Ms Murphy, who has since set up her own tour business, asked for longer than a month to repay the money and Mr Justice Michael Moriarty gave her two months.   He said he would not give Circuit Court costs against her but granted GCT the costs of one day of the two-day appeal in the High Court.

Mr Justice Moriarty said Ms Murphy, who represented herself in the High Court, had signed a formal document stating she was an independent contractor even though she had argued it was "thrust upon her" by her senior supervisor without her having an opportunity to obtain advice about it first.

He could not accept, given the way she had stood up for herself during the court proceedings, that she had just "neatly consented" to signing a document stating her relationship with GCT was that of an independent contractor when this was completely at variance with her understanding of her engagement with the company, he said.

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