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In a recently published decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (An Employee v An Employer) UD842/2011, the Claimant successfully claimed constructive dismissal and was awarded €23,826.

Background

The Claimant was employed by the Respondent to carry out administration work and help outside on the farm. The Claimant stated that her main duties of employment were in the office and that she worked part-time in the yard. She described the Respondent as very demanding and not an easy place to work and that her contact was originally 9-5 but that subsequently her breaks were cut and she never received her lunch breaks. The Claimant also gave evidence of an incident that occurred during her time off on a Sunday morning whereby she was on her way to her husband’s grandmother’s 80th party. The Claimant received a call from the Respondent stating that he needed to change flight bookings. By the time the Claimant changed the flights, they were late arriving at the party and the photographer had left. As a result the family portrait was incomplete.

The Claimant also gave evidence that the Respondent often told creditors that the Claimant was responsible for processing their outstanding payments and she was the reason for the delay. The Claimant also recalled an incident whereby she located a camera in the toilet of an empty staff apartment. The Claimant phoned the Gardai and stated that the Respondent ignored the incident and did not appear to care.

The Claimant gave evidence of an incident in 2010 where she left work early because she was feeling unwell and that a fellow employee informed her that the Respondent said she went home early because she was suffering with a hangover. The Claimant subsequently approached the Respondent who blew up and told the Claimant to get out and leave the keys. The Claimant understood that she was dismissed however she subsequently received a text message from the Respondent wishing to meet. The Claimant met the Respondent, shook hands and agreed to move on.

The Claimant stated relations got progressively worse and on 2nd December, the Respondent asked her to summarise two years of company accounts into a one page bill. The Claimant told the Respondent she could not do this and the Respondent replied “if you can’t do your job I’ll get someone else”. The Claimant asked the Respondent to clarify the statement by asking him if he was going to get someone else. The Respondent stated that if she could not do her job then he would get someone else. The Claimant left the premises and stated that the Respondent laughed at her trying to manoeuvre her car in the snow. The Claimant’s solicitors wrote to the Respondent and the Respondent’s solicitors replied that the Claimant walked out in the middle of a working day and this could be viewed as a resignation. The respondent offered to reinstate the Claimant to her position however the Claimant did consider the offer of in light of what had occurred.

The Respondent denied the Claimant’s version of events in relation to the events outlined. In relation to the Claimant’s last day at work on 2nd December 2010, the Respondent had asked the Claimant to prepare a VAT statement. The Respondent wanted the statement to separate Irish and English VAT and noted that the Claimant had not done this correctly. The Respondent stated that he was waiting to hear from the Claimant in the following days and offered to reinstate the Claimant. The Respondent stated that the Claimant was not dismissed but that she left of her own accord and received all monies and Form P45 the following January.

Determination

The Tribunal was satisfied that the Claimant was entitled not to return to work when the Respondent offered to reinstate her in a letter dated 15th December 2010 and that the cumulative effects of the Respondent’s actions in the preceding year had resulted in a complete breakdown of trust and confidence on the part of the Claimant in the Respondent.

The claimant was awarded €23,826 under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977 (as amended) and two weeks pay under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005.

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