Former ‘Irish Independent’ journalist awarded €55,000 by tribunal

Catherine Murphy became anxious about job after refusing to produce more celebrity articles

A former Irish Independent journalist has been awarded €55,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal as a result of an unfair dismissal taken against the newspaper

A former Irish Independent journalist has been awarded €55,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal as a result of an unfair dismissal taken against the newspaper

 

A former Irish Independent journalist has been awarded €55,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal as a result of an unfair dismissal taken against the newspaper.

Catherine Murphy had written articles for the Irish Independent’s weekend magazine over a period of 15 months between August 2011 and St Stephen’s Day 2012, when she was dismissed from her role.

During that period she was paid a weekly salary of €1,200, but a tribunal hearing last June was told that the newspaper failed to furnish Ms Murphy with a formal written contract despite promises made by the managing editor that she would be sent a contract to sign.

According to the judgment issued on Thursday, Ms Murphy was told to produce more “celebrity articles” in the weekend magazine by the newspaper’s new editor in late 2012, but she refused to accede to the request.

Following that incident, the complainant became increasingly anxious in relation to changes in the newspaper, and the effect they might have on her employment.

Ms Murphy then sought a meeting with the magazine editor to clarify her position, at which she was told to “simply continue to do what she was told”.

Having returned from a week of paid holidays at the beginning of November 2012, she was told by the magazine editor that there were to be cutbacks at the newspaper. Her contract was then terminated following an editorial discussion, but Ms Murphy was encouraged to continue sending in articles “for consideration”.

The Irish Independent failed to send legal representation to the tribunal hearing on June 4th last year, where a representative for Ms Murphy told the presiding chairwoman it was a “slam dunk” that she was an employee despite the absence of a written contract.

Management consultant Ken Stafford added that “everything from the start to the end was amazingly sloppily done for a large company”, and informed the tribunal that Ms Murphy could only find sporadic work and was receiving partial jobseeker’s allowance since her dismissal.

In its judgment, the tribunal said it was satisfied that the newspaper had received adequate notice of the hearing, and found that Ms Murphy had engaged in an oral contract with the newspaper in the absence of a written contract.

She was awarded a total of €55,000 under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007, but the judgment stated that the complainant’s loss was mitigated because she confined her subsequent search for employment to her field of expertise only.

It is the second case involving Independent Newspapers, which owns the Irish Independent, in recent weeks after investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty settled a High Court defamation action for undisclosed damages.

Ms O’Doherty previously settled for undisclosed damages in a separate employment appeals case taken against the group after she was made redundant in August 2013.