Decision by Dunnes to appeal €15,000 award to ex-worker backfires

Labour Court doubles payment to woman deemed to have faced discrimination from firm

A decision by Dunnes Stores to appeal a €15,000 award to an assistant manager who was dismissed after being on sick leave for two years has backfired. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

A decision by Dunnes Stores to appeal a €15,000 award to an assistant manager who was dismissed after being on sick leave for two years has backfired. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

A decision by Dunnes Stores to appeal a €15,000 award to an assistant manager who was dismissed after being on sick leave for two years has backfired.

The Labour Court decided to double the sum granted by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to Mary Doyle Guidera to €30,000 after finding the company had discriminated against her on the grounds of her disability.

Ms Doyle Guidera started working for Dunnes in November 2003 and went on sick leave on June 9th, 2014. She was dismissed on September 27th, 2016 over her “continued absence from work”.

She told the Labour Court that throughout her employment with Dunnes she was an exemplary employee. She said she was certified sick on June 9th, 2014 and had “continued to suffer from stress and anxiety”.

In January 2016, Ms Doyle Guidera’s GP sent an update to Dunnes stating that she suffered from a severe stress related illness and it was not possible to predict with certainty when she could return to work.

Update

Ms Doyle Guidera had regular meetings with a regional manager to provide updates on her condition. The manager then scheduled a meeting for September 12th, 2016 at which a definitive time for her return to work in the near future was to be sought.

At the meeting, Ms Doyle Guidera presented a referral letter to specialist consultant physician. The regional manager took the correspondence and then left the meeting for 10 minutes. On his return, he said he was terminating Ms Doyle Guidera’s employment but with notice.

Ms Doyle Guidera argued that the company’s conclusion that she was incapable of carrying out her work was reached in the absence of impending medical advice, which would address Dunnes’s request for a return to work date.

Dunnes said it was clear to the regional manager that Ms Doyle Guidera’s condition had not improved over the two-year period. The company argued that it appeared her condition was worseningand that after the September 2016 meeting, it appeared there was no prospect of her returning to work in the near future.

Dunnes said it was clear to Ms Doyle Guidera that it could not hold her position open indefinitely and that, when the time came, dismissal on the ground of incapacity was being considered.

The Labour Court found that a letter from Ms Doyle Guidera’s doctor a month before her dismissal that her condition had improved markedly and that “any potential return to work will depend on the outcome of this specialist visit”.