Seán Conlan made ‘litany of breaches’ of former secretary’s employments rights

Fine Gael pays portion of legal bills for TD in unfair dismissal case

 Seán Conlon:  The Employment Appeals Tribunal found he threatened  his secretary  with losing her job in a “wholly inappropriate manner” and cast doubt on some of his evidence and claims made. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Seán Conlon: The Employment Appeals Tribunal found he threatened his secretary with losing her job in a “wholly inappropriate manner” and cast doubt on some of his evidence and claims made. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

 

An Employment Appeals Tribunal has found a Fine Gael TD made a “litany of breaches” of his former secretary’s employments rights and threatened her in a “wholly inappropriate manner” .

Fine Gael paid a portion of the legal bills for Seán Conlan in the unfair dismissal case which saw the Cavan-Monaghan TD ordered to pay €25,000 to his former secretarial assistant.

Cathy Shevlin, who was a party member but has since resigned, took the case. In a ruling handed down this week, the tribunal found against Mr Conlan, a solicitor, and said there were a “litany of breaches” of Ms Shevlin’s employment rights.

It also found he threatened her with losing her job in a “wholly inappropriate manner” and cast doubt on some of his evidence and claims made.

“The tribunal finds there were a litany of breaches of the claimant’s employment rights and basic right to fair procedures,” it said. “Some of these breaches were more serious than others. Aligned to the aforementioned breaches, there were a number of inconsistency [sic] in the respondent’s evidence.”

While a Fine Gael spokesman declined to answer queries on whether the party paid some or all of Mr Conlan’s legal fees, sources said a portion was paid from party funds, but it is not clear how much.

Fine Gael’s solicitor Kevin O’Higgins acted for Mr Conlan and he was first represented at the tribunal hearings by Frances Meenan. Former lord mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn SC subsequently represented Mr Conlan. Ms Shevlin covered her own legal costs. It is still open to Mr Conlan to appeal against the decision. He did not return calls or requests for comment.

Ms Shevlin was dismissed in March 2013 and Mr Conlan had told the tribunal the reason for her dismissal was to do with issues of misconduct.

Mr Conlan claimed Ms Shevlin gave, or was going to give, sensitive tally information to third parties, gave a confidential party members list to a third party, failed to pass on information to him in relation to a speaking slot in the Dáil and was disloyal to him when making a comment on Facebook.

However, in its determination, seen by The Irish Times, the tribunal took issue with some of Mr Conlan’s claims.

On the issue of the tally information, it said that “based on the inconsistencies in the respondent’s evidence and the lack of evidence corroborating his version of the event, the tribunal prefer the claimant’s evidence in this regard and find that she did not have access to the information and did not in fact disclose this information to a third party”.

Regarding the confidential list, Mr Conlan accepted Ms Shevlin had not given it out “but believed it was her intention to do so”. The tribunal said Mr Conlan’s claim that he gave Ms Shevlin an oral warning as “not creditable” and said “no documentary evidence was adduced” to substantiate the claim.

During a period when Ms Shevlin was on sick leave following a dispute over the loss of a Dáil speaking slot, Mr Conlan attempted to begin a mediation process. The tribunal said Ms Shevlin agreed to this, but changed her mind when Mr Conlan “threatened to sue her husband in relation to another matter”. Mr Conlan wrote to her saying her failure to engage in a resolution process “is not a situation I can allow to continue and puts your continued employment at risk”.

The tribunal said: “To threaten an employee, who is on work-related stress-certified sick leave, that if she doesn’t concede to her employer’s demands forthwith her continued employment is in jeopardy, is wholly inappropriate.”

Mr Conlan said Ms Shevlin posted a Facebook comment criticising him for not turning up a constituency meeting. She said the comment was about herself but the tribunal found this was “not creditable”.