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Labour Court Reduces €10,000 Unfair Dismissal Award, Despite Flawed Procedure, Due to Teacher’s Own Conduct

posted 7 months ago

The Labour Court (the “Court”) case of Scoil Aine Naofa v Michael Hughes ADJ00025-23 concerned an appeal by both parties of a decision of the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”). The Complainant was dismissed on 14th June 2019 and brought a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 – 2015 (the “Acts”) to the WRC. The WRC Adjudicator found that the Complainant was unfairly dismissed and awarded him compensation of €10,000.  The Complainant appealed and sought reinstatement, and the Respondent appealed the level of award made to the Complainant.

Facts: The Complainant initially commenced part-time employment as a Special Needs Assistant (“SNA”) in the Respondent school in February 2017.  In the summer of 2018, the Complainant was offered a full-time position at the school.  The Respondent is a mainstream school with an autism unit attached to it.

In March 2019, the Complainant was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) which included a suggestion that he manage his time differently and take toilet breaks outside of class time. According to the Complainant, he had no input into the PIP.

There is conflicting evidence of what occurred next, in relation to an incident on 20th March 2019. The Respondent insisted that the Complainant appeared at the principal’s office with a wet crotch and a bottle of water and that there was no smell of urine. The Complainant claimed that he genuinely wet himself.  On appearing at the principal’s office he stated “look what happened” suggesting that he had wet himself.  The incident escalated and an ambulance was called due to the Complainant acting strangely. The Respondent sent the Complainant to Medmark and their medical report  that there was no medical reason for the Complainant’s behaviour.

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