Sunday 18 March 2018

Banker sacked for pornographic emails wins fight to get job back

James Reilly: was unfairly dismissed from his job
James Reilly: was unfairly dismissed from his job

Tim Healy

A Bank of Ireland sales manager who was sacked for "gross misconduct" over the sending of pornographic emails has won a six-year battle to get his job back.

James Reilly (33) of Edgewood Lawn, Blanchardstown, Dublin, said he had forwarded the emails to mask his homosexuality.

A High Court judge said yesterday Mr Reilly, who had an "exemplary record", had given unchallenged evidence the exchange of such emails was widespread within the bank and throughout public companies.

It had "a catastrophic effect" on his life and career, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said.

The bank "hierarchy" set out make an example of him, he said.

It was relevant the email considered the most serious originated in the bank's head office, was sent on by an official who was later promoted and no steps were taken to investigate the other employees involved, he added.

The bank seemingly went to lengths to conceal the provenance of that email, he said.

The long, complex process Mr Reilly endured before achieving reinstatement involved an initial investigation, a two-stage disciplinary process, two internal appeals and hearings before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Circuit Court and High Court, meant Mr Reilly had given evidence on eight different occasions over six years, incurring enormous costs.

It also "calls into question" Ireland's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights concerning access to justice, the judge said.

He was giving judgment dismissing the bank's appeal against a Circuit Court order awarding Mr Reilly compensation of half a year's salary after upholding a finding by the Employment Appeals Tribunal that he was unfairly dismissed.

Circuit Court Judge Gerard Griffin did not award the full salary amount because of his view that Mr Reilly contributed to his own downfall.

Mr Reilly, who joined BOI in 2001, accepted before the Circuit Court he had forwarded pornographic, rude, racist and sexist emails he received from other bank employees.

Judge Noonan said Mr Reilly's dismissal from the bank's Main Street, Blanchardstown, branch came when Ireland was experiencing an economic catastrophe "brought about in no small measure by the activities of our banks".

There was no doubt the emails were inappropriate but if the bank was going to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy, its employees should have been put on notice of that, he said.

Instead, Mr Reilly was summoned in 2009 at a moment's notice by a manager to be told he was being suspended on instructions of head office because of "something to do with emails".

He said the manner in which the bank pre-determined the matter and "manipulated" the entire process reflected little credit on it and was a "very grave injustice" on Mr Reilly.

The "only appropriate remedy" was reinstatement, the judge said.

Irish Independent

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