Employee awarded €120k for 'sham' dismissal during video meeting

Employee awarded €120k for 'sham' dismissal during video meeting

The Workplace Relations Commission found that it was disrespectful to Ray Walsh to invite him to a meeting with no forewarning of the subject matter, and to announce that his job was redundant. File photo: Violeta Stoimenova/iStock

An Account Manager made redundant without warning via a 10-minute long Microsoft Teams remote meeting during a Covid-19 lockdown has been awarded €120,000 for his unfair dismissal by way of redundancy.

This follows Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Catherine Byrne, ordering financial and IT services firm, Econocom Digital Finance Ltd to pay Ray Walsh €120,000 for his unfair dismissal by way of redundancy in July 2020.

Ray Walsh was told on the Microsoft Teams meeting entitled ‘Ireland Team Meeting’ by the MD for Ireland and the UK on April 27, 2020, that he was being made redundant as the Irish sales operations was closing.

Mr Walsh told the WRC that he tried to get an explanation for the decision but that he couldn’t construct an argument in response to what he was told.

Ms Byrne found that Mr Walsh was unfairly dismissed after concluding that no evidence was submitted by the Irish arm of the international provider of IT and financial services that Mr Walsh made any contribution to his dismissal.

In ordering the firm to pay Mr Walsh €120,000, Ms Byrne said that she took into account the redundancy lump sum payment of €19,152 that Mr Walsh received.

'Sham' dismissal

Mr Walsh was employed with the firm since 2004 and by April 2020 was an Account Manager on an annual salary of just over €120,000. Mr Walsh’s job was made redundant on July 31, 2020, as a result of the closure of the sales operation in the firm’s Dublin office.

Mr Walsh described that his dismissal due to redundancy as a "sham". Mr Walsh said that he is a fluent speaker of Spanish and Italian and was open to moving to another country to remain working with Econocom.

He stated that he was on Job Seeker’s allowance of €203 per week from August 1, 2020, until April 2021.

He said that he applied for around 37 jobs and he started in a new role 54 weeks after his dismissal on August 16, 2021, and now earns a base salary of €60,000 and is eligible for commission on sales.

In a letter to the company in April 2020, Mr Walsh described the firm’s offer of statutory redundancy as derisory and devaluing, particularly for a company of Econocom’s size of around €3bn per annum.

The company stated that the high costs associated with the Dublin business, and the decline in profit before tax since 2017 meant that the sales operation comprising two account managers could not be sustained.

WRC findings

However, in her findings Ms Byrne found that in the manner in which Mr Walsh’s employment was terminated, the firm departed from the standard of reasonableness that a reasonable employer would have shown when dealing with an employee in similar circumstances.

Ms Byrne found that it was disrespectful to Mr Walsh to invite him to a meeting with no forewarning of the subject matter, and to announce that his job was redundant.

She also found that no credible explanation has been given for the decision of the managers not to engage with Mr Walsh to identify a suitable alternative role, or to extend his notice period so that he could find another job.

Solicitor for Mr Walsh, Alastair Purdy, told the WRC that irrespective of whether the redundancy of his job was a valid redundancy, the manner in which it was effected is entirely at odds with Mr Walsh’s right to fair procedures. Mr Purdy submitted that no procedures whatsoever were applied by the firm and no consultation took place with Mr Walsh prior to the date on which he commenced garden leave on June 22, 2020.

Mr Purdy also stated that there was no consideration of the possibility of an alternative role, and lastly, there was no appeal of the decision to make Mr Walsh’s job redundant.

Econocom's case

The firm told the WRC that the redundancy of Mr Walsh’s role was inevitable in circumstances where the sales operation in Ireland was closing down. The firm stated that Mr Walsh's dismissal on the redundancy ground was not unfair.

The company said that there was no selection process to be considered and no suitable alternative job available to which he could have been appointed.

In a letter to Mr Walsh, the firm told him that in 2017 annual sales in Ireland were €2.99m with a net profit of €351,000 and by 2019 sales were €4.7m but the profit was zero.

The firm told Mr Walsh: “The considerable high costs of the business with no return means that this is not a sustainable model and therefore subject to closure.”

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