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Farmer with multiple sclerosis awarded €31,000 in unfair dismissal case

12-Apr-2019


A farmer with multiple sclerosis who was told not to come back to work until he provided his employer with a letter confirming his fitness to drive has been awarded €31,000 in the Workplace Relations Commission.

The man, who worked on the farm since 1993, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 had only missed three days of work since his diagnosis.

Despite letters from a neurologist confirming his fitness to drive, the man had not been paid since July 2018 and Adjudication Officer Marie Flynn was satisfied that the employer had not taken any steps to assess if the man could not continue in his employment, nor was the man given any notice that dismissal for incapacity was being considered.

Background

The complainant’s sent him home from work last year when his employer claimed that there was no insurance for him, and that he was not to come back to work until he provided a letter from his neurologist confirming he was fit to drive.

At a meeting between the parties that day, the employer made the decision to dismiss the complainant, terminating his employment because there was an insurance “issue” due to the complainant’s medical condition.

It was evident that the decision was made in haste and without any recourse to fair procedures, or giving the complainant an opportunity to be heard, or attaching any weight to his views. the complainant went to work again several days later and was again told to leave.

There had never been an issue with insurance before and the complainant possessed a full driving licence which he renewed every three years.

The employer stopped paying the complainant his regular wage and, despite some small payments being made, the complainant has not been paid since 4 July 2018, nor has he been furnished with the relevant P60s.

Throughout August 2018, there was some correspondence between the parties, including letters from the Irish Wheelchair Association and the complainant’s neurologist confirming he was fit to drive.

When the complainant’s solicitors sought sight of correspondence from the employer’s insurance company, a letter was provided which sought a medical report – but this letter confirmed that the renewal date on the policy was 25 January 2019, meaning it was dated after the complainant was dismissed from his work.

The lands previously farmed by the employer and his sheds for grains are now rented out, and the complainant felt his employer wanted to get rid of him by whatever means necessary in order to avoid paying him redundancy. He complained that he was denied fair procedures and that the dismissal was unfair, having regard to the relevant legislation and applicable principles. Furthermore, he complained that, in reality, his position was made redundant and that he was therefore entitled to compensation for the loss of redundancy payments he would have been entitled to.

The complainant submitted that he attempted to find alternative work but that his condition is off-putting to potential employers, and that he has been unable to secure alternative work since his dismissal.

It was the employer’s case that the complainant had not been dismissed and that he had been asked to do non-driving work.

Workplace Relations Commission

Considering whether the dismissal was unfair, Adjudication Officer Flynn highlighted that at no stage had the employer taken any meaningful steps to assess if there was a substantial reason why the complainant could not continue in employment – and the complainant was not notified at any stage that dismissal for incapacity was being considered.

Source: Irish Legal News