Sunday 18 March 2018

Irish Rail worker brings legal challenge after being dismissed for failing random alcohol test

Connolly Station in Dublin
Connolly Station in Dublin

Tim Healy

AN Irish Rail clerical worker has brought a legal challenge over her dismissal after she failed a random breath test for alcohol.

Carol Sheridan (55), who works in the company's corporate communications department at Connolly Station, was fired from her job after she gave a breath test on September 27 last.  She has been with the company for 37 years and had a clean record, the High Court heard.

The test gave a reading of 50 Micrograms (μg) per 100 Millilitres of breath. The company's cut off point is 35μg per 100mls.

She was initially suspended from her job, and after undergoing a disciplinary process, was informed she was to be dismissed on the grounds of safety.

She claims Irish Rail cannot dismiss her because no serious safety issue has been identified.

The company rejects her claims and argues the fact she was present at work under the influence of alcohol was in itself a significant safety risk, to herself and others.

The test showed she had consumed alcohol the previous evening and did not consume alcohol at the workplace, she said.

Ms Sheridan who also acts as a carer for her partner said she consumed drink the night before, leading into the early morning of the test.

She says the test was taken at a time of great stress for her.

Ms Sheridan sought an injunction over her dismissal but following talks today, the court was told that application would not proceed and there had been agreement about an early hearing of her full action.

It was also agreed she will be paid her salary pending the full hearing of the dispute and that no one would be appointed to her €48,000 per annum position on full time basis until then.

In her action, Ms Sheridan said had suffered some family bereavements and the day before the test she had learned a lump on her breast was not cancerous.

She did not drink at work, nor does she have a problem with drink.

She was informed she was to be dismissed last October an an internal Irish Rail disciplinary appeal tribunal set aside the dismissal subject to certain conditions, including that she receive a written warning and be subjected to random testing.

She said she was happy to comply with the conditions, and returned to work in December.

However, the day after she returned to work, the company said it would not comply with the tribunal's decision, invoking safety grounds.

Despite meeting involving her trade union,  Irish Rail said it was sticking to its position meaning she was to be dismissed and would not be paid beyond March 5 next.

She then brought legal proceedings.

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