In the recent High Court decision of Genockey v The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland ([2017] IEHC 498), a successful job applicant was dismissed for failing to satisfy the defendant employer's educational qualification requirements. This decision highlights the importance of employers clearly specifying any qualification requirements or other conditions of employment at the early stages of the recruitment process, and certainly prior to making any offers of employment.

Background

The plaintiff sent her unsolicited CV to the defendant employer. There were no suitable jobs available at that time, but the defendant agreed to hold the CV on file should a suitable position arise at a later date. The plaintiff was later invited by the defendant's agents to interview for the position of loan administrator. The accompanying application form for the position stated that certain verifications were required, including "original documentation in relation to the required educational qualifications", prior to commencing employment. By way of phone call, the agent offered the plaintiff the position after her interview. The plaintiff asserted that this phone call constituted an unconditional offer, while the defendant claimed that it was subject to the conditions specified as to verification of qualifications.

The plaintiff later received another phone call informing her again that her original Leaving Certificate results would be required before commencing employment, and her written offer also stated that the offer was subject to "verification of your qualifications and the information you have provided on the application form". The plaintiff then produced her original Leaving Certificate results which, contrary to what she had stated in her CV and application form, revealed that she had failed maths and the job offer was subsequently withdrawn.

The plaintiff argued that an unconditional offer of employment was made during the first phone call and therefore sought damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation, breach of warranty, wrongful dismissal, negligence and breach of duty of care.

Decision

Mr. Justice Eagar held that the plaintiff had not established that the defendant failed to exercise a duty of care. The plaintiff had originally stated her Leaving Certificate results to be "3 (honours) 4 (passes)". In evidence in the High Court however, the plaintiff admitted that she had received 4 passes and 3 fails in pass level subjects, including a fail in maths.

Although the High Court accepted the plaintiff's evidence that she had unwittingly provided the incorrect results, the Court stated that: …"in applying Sheehy v. Ryan [2008] 4 I.R. 258, it was made clear by the defendant employer that a term of any successful candidate’s employment would be that they meet specific educational criteria. Unfortunately, the plaintiff did not meet these criteria, and thus the defendant employer had the right to dismiss the plaintiff for this reason."

Conclusion

This case is a positive decision for employers who require their prospective employees to hold certain qualifications. By extension, it also serves as a reminder to all employers of the importance of specifying any required educational requirements or other conditions of employment in a concise manner prior to making an offer of employment, and making clear that the offer of employment is conditional on satisfactory verification or completion of these conditions.