A Dublin private fee paying school has been ordered to pay €5,000 compensation to a teacher who allegedly called a male student ‘a little b***h’.
The €5,000 award to Pierce Dillon ordered by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) arises from a refusal by the Catholic University School on Dublin’s Leeson Street to allow Mr Dillon appeal a final written warning issued to him in April 2015.
The school issued the final written warning after an investigation into an allegation by a student that Mr Dillon in 2014 called him ‘a little b***h’. Mr Dillon has denied at all times that he called the student the offensive name.
Mr Dillon took a case to the WRC under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act concerning the failure of the school to allow him appeal the final written warning.
Now, in a ruling, WRC adjudicator Jim Dolan said it was a mistake by the school to refuse an appeal to the final written warning and he found the ex-teacher’s claim under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissal Act to be well founded.
Mr Dolan made a zero award for claim of loss of earnings due to what he called the teacher's "poor effort" to mitigate his losses and being mindful of the fact that the complainant was on sick leave for approximately two and a half years after his resignation.
The €5,000 award however is a small fraction of the legal costs in the long-running dispute between Mr Dillon and the school.
Already, the dispute has been the subject of the two High Court rulings and a ruling by the Court of Appeal.
In October 2019 the High Court found that Mr Dillon was denied a proper disciplinary process and ruled that he was entitled to an order quashing the final written warning.
However, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy found that Mr Dillon was not entitled to an order quashing the school board of management's finding that he engaged in inappropriate behaviour and language towards the boy.
In a bid to overturn the disciplinary outcome, the teacher initially instituted High Court judicial review proceedings in December 2015 and that legal process continued for almost four years before Ms Justice Murphy’s ruling in October 2019.
At the WRC, lawyers for Mr Dillon argued that the flawed disciplinary process has cost their client great reputational damage and distress.
They stated that the final written warning remaining on his file and his relationship with his school had made life “intolerable" for the man.
He resigned from his post in February 2017 and he has been unemployed since.
Mr Dillon stated that he did not engage in inappropriate behaviour or language and should not have been given a final written warning and the process undertaken by the school was fundamentally flawed.
The science teacher with 35 years experience was earning €65,000 per annum for working 22 hours each week and worked at the school from 1992 to February 2017.
The teacher was also an examiner of science at the Department of Education at senior level.
Legal representatives for Mr Dillon said the unreasonable behaviour of the school has continued to cast a shadow over their client even after his resignation.
They contend that by refusing to provide a teaching reference to him the school "has effectively rendered him unemployable in the second level education sector, causing great financial, professional and personal suffering for him”.
In his findings at the WRC, Mr Dolan said the teacher was unfit for work from December 9, 2015, until he resigned on January 31, 2017.
Mr Dolan stated: "When asked when he became fit for work he replied that it was not until after the High Court Judgement dated 8th October 2019, some 32 months after his resignation.”