Tuesday 23 July 2019

Former employees bring High Court action against well-known Galway pub alleging 'sudden, abrupt' and 'unlawful' termination

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

Former employees of a well-known Galway-based pub have brought High Court proceedings arising out of the "sudden, abrupt" and allegedly unlawful termination of their employment last April.

The application has been brought by 15 former full-time and part-time staff members of the 'Hole in the Wall' Pub, located at Eyre Street, in Galway City, which has been closed since April.

After losing their jobs the former staff, some of whom are third-level students, made various complaints about their employer that are pending before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).  

At the High Court on Monday the 15, represented by barrister Tim Dixon Bl instructed by solicitor Owen Swaine, obtained a temporary injunction against the pub's owner Mr Stephen Fahy and the company Stephen Fahy Ltd which operated the premises.

Mr Justice Michael Quinn said he was satisfied to grant the interim injunction restraining the defendants from offering possession of the public house to any other person.

The former staff members claim Mr Fahy controls the company, which was their employer.

The pub was leased to Stephen Fahy Ltd, which also held the seven-day Publican's License in respect of the premises. 

In their action, the former staff members claim Mr Fahy who caused the pub to shut down intends to wind up the company, and transfer the publican's licence to a new tenant, and divest himself of possession. 

They claim that at a sitting of a district court in rural Co Galway on May 21st last the company, whose only assets are the lease and the licence, transferred the publican's licence to Mr Fahy.

Mr Swaine says he only learned of that transfer late last week.

Should the winding up of the company, along with the transfer of possession of the public house to another entity occur the former staff members claim their situation will be prejudiced.

This would be because claims they have made as creditors of the company may be defeated.

The injunction, which was granted by the judge on an ex parte basis, is to remain in place until the dispute between the parties has been resolved at the WRC, or until further order of the High Court. 

In their action, the ex-staff also seek orders restraining the winding up of Stephen Fahy Ltd, until the proceedings at the WRC  have been resolved, and an order declaring that the surrender of the lease by the company to Mr Fahy is void.  

The court granted the applicants permission to serve short notice of those reliefs to the defendants' legal representatives.

In a sworn statement to the court seeking the injunction, Mr Swaine said the former employees have made complaints to the WRC following their wrongful dismissal without notice last April.

Mr Swaine said his clients have experienced problems during their employment including alleged bullying and sexual discrimination.

One ex-staff member, who had been with the company for several years and worked seven days a week, is unable to get social welfare benefits, Mr Swaine said.

This is because his former employer had not registered him with Revenue Commissioners, nor paid any social contributions or any other taxes on his behalf, Mr Swaine said.

Another staff member, who is a student, worked 2-4 shifts per week at the pub.

She was paid €50 per shift whether it lasted five hours or more than seven hours which was less than minimum wage, he added.

The matter will return before the Court later this week.

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