Supreme Court to rule on challenge to Workplace Relations Commission

Court will give judgment at a later date on a significant ‘test’ case appeal concerning the constitutionality of new procedures for the resolution of workplace disputes
Supreme Court to rule on challenge to Workplace Relations Commission

A significant test case on the resolution of workplace disputes will be judged by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will give judgment at a later date on a significant ‘test’ case appeal concerning the constitutionality of new procedures for the resolution of workplace disputes.

The core issue in the appeal is whether the process operated by the Workplace Relations Commission under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, including having adjudication officers determine complaints, involves the “administration of justice” reserved under the Constitution to judges.

Tomasz Zaleswki, whose complaint of unfair dismissal was rejected by an adjudication officer, argues the process involves the administration of justice and is therefore unconstitutional.

The State, represented by Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC and Catherine Donnelly SC, has accepted the treatment of Mr Zaleswki’s complaint breached his fair procedure rights but disputes the overall process amounts to an unconstitutional administration of justice.

Mr Gallagher said a finding that the procedures involve the administration of justice would have "immense" implications for other decision-making bodies outside the courts process.

A seven-judge court heard final arguments in the three-day appeal after which Chief Justice Justice Frank Clarke said the court was reserving its judgment.

Mr Zalewski, represented by Peter Ward SC and Cian Ferriter SC, has argued the procedures under the 2015 Act for dealing with unfair dismissal claims, and claims for payment in lieu of notice, amounts to the “administration of justice” under Article 34 of the Constitution properly reserved to judges.

The 2015 Act was introduced after abolition of the previous Employment Appeals Tribunal system for adjudicating claims under the Unfair Dismissal and Payment of Wages Acts.

An adjudication officer in 2016 dismissed Mr Zalewski’s complaint of being unfairly dismissed from his job as assistant manager of the Costcutter Store on Dublin’s North Strand Road, where he had worked for four years.

Last February, the High Court found, while powers exercised by adjudication officers and the Labour Court under the 2015 Act exhibit “many characteristics” of the administration of justice, they lack an essential characteristic, a decision maker’s ability to enforce its decisions, because an application must be made to a District Court to enforce.

Arising from the State's acceptance the dismissal of Mr Zalewski's complaint was invalid, Mr Justice Garrett Simons directed it should be decided by a different adjudication officer.

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