A female flight attendant who resigned after requesting autographs from celebrities during a flight has lost her case for constructive dismissal against Ryanair at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).
In December 2009 the employee approached some celebrity passengers on board a flight (reported in the media to be John and Edward Grimes a.k.a. Jedward) and asked for their autographs. In accordance with the Ryanair company manual, cabin crew are not permitted to speak to celebrity passengers. The employee was told by her supervisor that she had harassed the passengers and was not to do so again. Two years later, the same celebrity passengers were on board a flight and some members of the crew approached the passengers and had photographs taken with them. No action was taken against these crew members and the employee wrote a letter of complaint to management regarding the differing treatment she had received.
The employee in question also made a number of other complaints to management during her employment – a complaint in relation to how she was spoken to by a captain during a flight, various complaints surrounding her transfer from flying duties to office-based duties during her pregnancy and complaints regarding her lack of promotion. The employee contended that one of the reasons she had not been promoted related to the incident with the celebrity passengers. However, Ryanair management denied this. Upon tendering her resignation in September 2012, the employee claimed that her grounds for doing so were "discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace".
Having examined the evidence in the case, the EAT found that the employee had "failed to fully engage with and exhaust the grievance procedure open to her". The EAT stated that when an employee resigns and asserts that his/her actions amount to constructive dismissal, the employee must act reasonably and this includes affording the employer "an adequate and reasonable opportunity to address and remedy any grievance". By resigning before the grievance procedure had been exhausted, the employee did not act reasonably. Therefore, the EAT found in favour of Ryanair.
This case highlights the necessity for employees, in certain circumstances, to fully follow the steps of their employer’s grievance procedure and exhaust all possibilities of appeal prior to resigning from their position. Employers should ensure that they have a robust written grievance policy in place so that there is a clear process to be followed when an employee wishes to raise a grievance.