Farm manager with Multiple Sclerosis awarded €31k for unfair dismissal

File and unrelated image of farm scene

A farmer unfairly dismissed a manager with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) after allegedly telling him that most people at his stage of MS would have "fallen off the edge of the table by now”.

At the meeting between the two on August 4, 2018, the Farm Manager also alleged that the farmer told him that that if he took disability now, “he would have a better quality of life and that if they met across the table in 10 years’ time that hopefully he would have no aids or a wheelchair”.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) the WRC has ordered the farmer to pay his former Farm Manager €31,240 for his unfair dismissal and breaching his terms and conditions.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Marie Flynn said that she was satisfied that the complaint for unfair dismissal is well founded.

She stated that the farmer did not take any meaningful steps to assess if there was a substantial reason why the Farm Manager could not continue in employment.

The farm manager was diagnosed with MS in 2004 and the man’s employer was made aware immediately of the diagnosis.

MS can cause a wide range of symptoms and each person is affected differently but some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, vision problems, numbness and tingling, mobility problems and muscle spasms.

The Farm Manager stated that his work has never been affected by his condition and never missed work because of his condition apart from three days around seven years ago.

The Farm Manager performed numerous jobs for the Farmer including transporting materials, driving vehicles and operating machinery.

In June 2018, the Farmer told the Farm Manager that he had decided to dismiss him as there was an insurance “issue” due to his medical condition. The farmer stopped paying the Farm Manager’s wages in July.

On August 14th 2018, the Farm Manager attended his place of work and furnished the Farmer with letters from both the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and his Neurologist.

The letter from the IWA confirmed that it was safe for the Farm Manager to drive and a letter from his neurologist confirmed that he had no difficulty with balance and his cognitive assessment score was normal.

At the WRC hearing, the Farm Manager argued that he was denied fair procedures and that the dismissal was unfair.

He argued that he was not put on notice that he might be dismissed and was not afforded the opportunity to express his views in relation to his termination.

The Farm Manager told the WRC hearing that he has attempted to find alternative work since his dismissal but finds that his condition is off putting to all potential employers.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Marie Flynn has ordered the farmer to pay the Farm Manager €29,000 for unfair dismissal and €2,240 for not providing the Farm Manager with a written employment contract or a copy of his terms and conditions of employment.

The farmer denied the words allegedly spoken by him at the August 4 meeting and said that he visited the Farm Manager to offer him a return to work to do non-driving work.

However, Ms Flynn stated that on the balance of probabilities, she preferred the narrative by the Farm Manager rather than the one put forward by the farmer.

Ms Flynn stated that €29,000 represents one year salary and she stated that in making her award, she took into account the Farm Manager’s probable difficulty in securing employment.

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