Chauffeur wins €1,300 compensation after Indian Embassy fails in bid to assert diplomatic immunity

Adrian Taranu alleged that his contract denied him full complement of statutory annual leave due to him under Irish law

Adrian Taranu, told the WRC that he 'frequently worked longer hours' than his contract specified and had been denied a full 11-hour break between shifts. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

A chauffeur for the Indian Embassy who said he had been denied his full holiday entitlements and was required to work 12-14 hour shifts has won compensation of €1,300 after the mission failed in a bid to assert diplomatic immunity.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) awarded the sum for multiple breaches of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 after the Embassy declined to attend a hearing last September and claimed the tribunal had no jurisdiction.

The worker, Adrian Taranu, told the Commission that he “frequently worked longer hours” than his contract specified and had been denied a full 11-hour rest break between shifts. He gave the tribunal six examples of working patterns on dates in October and November 2022.

He said on October 17th that year he worked a 12-hour shift, clocking off at 11pm, only to start work again the following morning at 8.30am. He said in his complaint that it was the start of “seven consecutive days without a day off”.

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He further alleged that his contract denied him the full complement of statutory annual leave due to him under Irish law, and that he was also being denied public holidays he was entitled to because the Embassy was working to the Indian public holiday calendar instead of the Irish one.

The diplomatic mission entered no appearance before the WRC in Mr Taranu’s case – writing to the employment tribunal in July last year to claim it “would not be subject to [its] jurisdiction” on the basis of “state immunity” under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In the letter, the embassy denied the claims and said the worker had produced no specifics or any “documentary evidence” – and expressed surprise that the hearing had been called on at all.

Mr Taranu’s barrister, Eoin O’Connor BL, appearing instructed by Richard Bowman of Bowman McCabe Solicitors, argued that the Vienna Convention only provided for “certain immunities for diplomatic agents” and that it was clear his client did not fall into his category, as his pay was subject to income tax and Irish statutory deductions.

“The complainant was employed as a driver and performed routine, administrative tasks for his employer. He is not a citizen of the respondent state, and was a locally-employed worker who did not exercise any functions that amount to the exercise of governmental authority,” Mr O’Connor added.

Citing a 2012 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the application of sovereign immunity to employment disputes, adjudicating officer Jim Dolan wrote in his decision: “I do not accept that the duties undertaken by Mr Taranu fall within the exercise of public powers and therefore state immunity does not apply”.

Mr Dolan ruled that Mr Taranu’s first complaint under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 regarding rest breaks between shifts was well-founded, and gave a compliance direction “to ensure that the complainant receives all statutory daily breaks”.

He also upheld a second complaint for the failure to provide Mr Taranu with his weekly rest break when he worked for seven days in a row starting on October 17th, 2022, and awarded €250 for the breach.

Mr Dolan awarded a total of €1,300 in compensation for the working time breaches.