Former DCU lecturer awarded €45,000 for unfair dismissal


FORMER LECTURER at Dublin City University Dr Seán O’Nuallain has been awarded €45,000 for his unfair dismissal, by the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The case was an appeal by the university against the recommendation of a Rights Commissioner in the case. The Rights Commissioner had recommended that Dr O’Nuallain be reinstated to a permanent position. The tribunal ruled Dr O’Nuallain had “contributed substantially to his dismissal” by failing to engage with his employer. It said it was varying the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner and considered an award of €45,000 was “just and equitable in all the circumstances of this case”.

The computing school lecturer had sought reinstatement as a remedy for his dismissal but the tribunal said this would not be appropriate.

“The tribunal noted that the employee referred to the president, the heads of school and other faculty members and officials in his blog on the internet on a number of occasions using terms such as ‘scum’, ‘traitors’, ‘criminals’, ‘cowards’, ‘useful idiots’ and other derogatory utterances to describe a significant number of named individuals in the university,” the ruling stated.

“He also made offensive references to members of the president’s family. The tribunal is satisfied that neither reinstatement nor re-engagement would be an appropriate remedy in the circumstances of this case.”

The tribunal said the sequence of events that led directly to his dismissal started in March 2002 when the head of the school of computer applications set up meetings with staff to discuss student work placements.

“The employee did not attend any of these meetings nor did he respond to the invitations from HS to attend.”

The tribunal said Dr O’Nuallain later walked out of a meeting with his superior, saying a trade union representative should be in attendance. Afterwards, he sent an e-mail to the head of school saying he was taking leave but did not explain the nature of the leave.

The head of school made a number of unsuccessful attempts to meet Dr O’Nuallain before writing to the then university president Prof Ferdinand Von Prondzynski about the issue.

The president wrote to Dr O’Nuallain on several occasions but the lecturer did not open some of the letters.

He forwarded some to the Green Party’s John Gormley for onward transmission to his union, and others directly to the union, without inquiring about the content of the letters. “This behaviour was bizarre and unjustified,” the tribunal said.

The president subsequently suspended him with pay, and later without pay, before issuing a final warning and dismissing him in June 2002.

“The president did not invoke the disciplinary procedure and no representative of the respondent met the employee’s trade union in advance of the dismissal despite a request by the trade union for relevant information and a meeting,” it said.

DCU said Dr O’Nuallain had repudiated his contract of employment and the university had not dismissed him.

After considering the letters sent by the president to Dr O’Nuallain, the tribunal said it was satisfied he had been dismissed within the meaning of the Unfair Dismissals Acts.