Ex-US embassy guard cannot appeal his dismissal

John Greene told he cannot take case as the US government has diplomatic immunity

The US embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

The US embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

 

A former US embassy security guard has been told he cannot take an employment appeals case over his dismissal as his former employer, the US government, has diplomatic immunity in Ireland.

John Greene had argued that he was unfairly dismissed from the security guard role in September 2013 following an investigation into what his superiors termed a “security breach” at the embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Mr Greene wanted to make the case that the US government is liable to provide a remedy for his claim should it prove successful in the Irish system, but the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has ruled it does not have jurisdiction to preside over the dispute.

In hearings that touched on several Supreme Court rulings, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, counsel for the US government successfully argued that sovereign immunity applies due to the important nature of Mr Greene’s duties.

It was decided that the vital functions of his role, which the tribunal heard included guarding against terrorist attacks, meant the case cannot be heard by an Irish employment dispute resolution body.

Precedent

The decision is expected to set a precedent for similar cases which have also been brought before the tribunal.

The ruling went the opposite way to another EAT case where diplomatic immunity was invoked, in which the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Ireland and his wife were ordered to pay a total of €240,000 damages to three Filipino women who were paid below minimum wage while in their domestic employment.

Over the course of two hearings in May and July 2015, the tribunal was presented with conflicting arguments about the importance of Mr Greene’s job, which he had held for more than eight years.

Counsel for Mr Greene said the security guard role entailed “functional and low-level” duties, including greeting visitors and carrying out security checks.

It was further stated that he only had limited access inside the embassy and had no “security function” over the embassy as he was answerable to the US marines on site.

This was contested by his supervisor, who said Mr Greene was the “first line of defence” for people in the embassy and the US ambassador’s residence, as he had knowledge of access codes and controlled entry to US facilities.

“The provision of a ‘first line of defence’ is an important and integral part of the US government’s security system for the defence of its personnel and property against criminal and terrorist attack and cannot therefore be considered to be merely ‘functional and low level’,” the tribunal said in its judgment.

Although little was said about the reasons for Mr Greene’s dismissal, his employer argued that “all trust and confidence” had been lost in Mr Greene following an “incident” which resulted in his security clearance being removed.