Tuesday 20 February 2018

Top store fired worker in bully claim, court told

Aodhan O'Faolain

A LINGERIE and swimsuit buyer for prestigious department store Brown Thomas was told she was being dismissed after she complained of bullying and harassment, a court was told yesterday.

Mary Mullin yesterday got an injunction preventing store management from dismissing her at a special sitting of the High Court.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted Ms Mullin, with an address at Rathgar, Dublin, an interim injunction preventing Brown Thomas Ltd from giving effect to her purported dismissal from her position as a Group Buyer for the company.

Her lawyer, Matthew Jolley, said the company, which she has worked for since 2004, told her last week she was being let go from her position as buyer of lingerie, swimwear and hosiery.

He said that some months ago Ms Mullin complained to her employers that she had been bullied by a superior, whom she alleges made her working life unbearable.

She sought to have her complaints dealt with through the company's grievance procedures.

Initially her complaints were made on an informal basis. Mr Jolley said Ms Mullin subsequently believed the company was not taking her complaints seriously, and she sought to have her complaints formally investigated.

The court was told that during the mediation process, it was suggested Ms Mullin should leave the company given the breakdown of the working relationship with her superior.

Mr Jolley said that Ms Mullin "was taken aback by this".

He added that matters came to a head last week when the company informed Ms Mullin that it was terminating her employment with immediate effect, with one month's pay in lieu of notice.

Mr Jolley said it was their case that Ms Mullin had been "summarily dismissed" from what was a "high-profile" and niche job.

She had not been afforded natural justice by Brown Thomas, including the right of an appeal, despite the fact it was she who made complaints of being allegedly bullied at work.

He added Ms Mullin was fearful her purported dismissal would do irreparable damage to her professional reputation in a tightknit industry.

And he said damages would not be adequate as a remedy, as his client feared she would not be able to find a similar position in the current economic climate.

The judge said she was satisfied to grant an injunction, which was made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis, as Ms Mullin had raised a fair issue to be tried in her application.

Ms Justice Laffoy added this was a "very unusual situation" compared with the type of employment cases the court normally encountered.

The case will be back before the court tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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