A quantity surveyor was subjected to a “sham” redundancy process while undergoing treatment for cancer.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has awarded him €18,000 compensation for unfair dismissal from his role in building restoration at a contracting firm.
Adjudication officer Brian Dalton found the man’s employer “contrived” a disciplinary process to justify his dismissal in March last year.
He said it was based on a “Hobson’s choice” of a “take it or leave it” €4,000 redundancy payment. Mr Dalton said this was a fraction of his statutory entitlement.
Otherwise, the worker would have to take up a role that was “utterly changed” and he was unlikely to succeed in, he said.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, solicitor Barry Crushell, who represented the worker, said it was important to remember that, at the time the incidents occurred, his client had colon cancer.
“When he didn’t accept their spurious offer of redundancy, they made it difficult for him to return by diminishing his terms and conditions of employment.
“When he refused to return to that diminished role, they began to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him in an effort to dismiss him and get rid of a sick, and as they perceived it, failing employee.”
The man was dismissed for gross misconduct for failing to provide medical certs or engage with the company.
He told the WRC his employer initially told him he would get a redundancy package of €9,000.
He felt he was being told to accept €4,000 because his old job was gone. If not, he would have to be a salesperson as well
It was shameful that his employer later factored in a payment of €6,000 into his redundancy payment, he said.
The surveyor, who worked for the company since 2016, said this payment was described as a gift because he was on sick leave.
He said the employer knew he had done work for the company while out sick. The man had asked for the work to keep his mind off his illness.
He said he appreciated the payment of €500 a week, which was made up of holiday pay plus a top-up, for the work he was doing.
During 2021, he said his side of the business in tendering for restoration work decreased. At a meeting in June, he said his employer told him he would be made redundant because his work had diminished, but not until he returned to work.
He saw this as reasonable.
When he refused to return to that diminished role, they began to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him
But he said he was told that his redundancy entitlement would be €4,000 at a meeting in October, having previously been told it would be €9,000.
Otherwise, he could return to work but he would have to bring in new business to contribute to his salary.
He felt he was being told to accept €4,000 because his old job was gone. If not, he would have to be a salesperson as well as a quantity surveyor.
The man said he felt he was being told to accept the money or face being put under pressure if he returned to work.
He said the events that began soon afterwards were a sham process.
The employer denied the disciplinary process was a sham. It claimed the worker sought a meeting requesting he be made redundant.
An offer was made that had regard to payments already made, and the meeting did not go well.
The employer said the core element of his work would continue. The employer said it fairly sanctioned him for failing to inform the company when he would return to work.
It said eventually it had no alternative but to dismiss him.
Adjudication officer Mr Dalton said he found the worker’s account more credible.
“The complainant was sacked under the guise of not engaging in a shambolic disciplinary process,” Mr Dalton said. “He was presented with Hobson’s choice. It was… ‘take €4,000 or you take this role which you can’t succeed in’. That is no choice.”