The Labour Court recently held that the dismissal of an employee on the grounds of her capability was not justified on either substantive or procedural grounds and, therefore, was unfair. We examine the facts of the case and highlight the importance of fair procedures.
In a recent Labour Court case, Noonan Services Group Limited v Elvira Kravcova, the employer was held to have unfairly dismissed the employee who had reported health issues to her employer.
Ms Kravcova was employed as a cleaner with Noonan Services Group Limited. As a result of issues she had raised in relation to her health, she was referred to the employer’s occupational health doctor. He advised that she was at best partially fit for her duties and that she would benefit from a change of work. She was called to a meeting and a decision was made to dismiss her.
Ms Kravcova made a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission alleging that she had been unfairly dismissed from her employment. An Adjudication Officer decided that she had not been unfairly dismissed and she appealed this decision to the Labour Court.
The Labour Court found that the medical evidence clearly stated that she was partially fit for the demanding task of a cleaner. It held that the employer took no steps to establish the extent of that capacity, the tasks she could and could not undertake, or advise her to consult with her own medical advisors. Instead, they followed a fatally flawed procedure which did not afford her rights to procedural fairness or natural justice.
The Court held that therefore the employer had no basis for deciding that she was unfit to perform her duties. It found that the dismissal was unfair on both substantive and procedural grounds and awarded her €8,160, which amounted to 20 weeks’ pay.
This case highlights the fact that in order to effect a dismissal fairly and to avoid liability under the Acts, an employer must have a fair reason to dismiss an employee and is obliged to afford that employee their entitlement to fair procedures and natural justice.