Employment Law

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Unfair Dismissal


The Workers Relations Commission considered a case where an employee, who had been dismissed, had been convicted on a guilty plea in the District Court on a sexual assault charge and whether that had a bearing on the employee’s protection under employment law.


The complainant took a gamble believing that he would get the Probation Act if he pleaded guilty to the charge. He did not inform his employer that he had been charged with sexual assault until after the case had been heard. In the court, the complainant was given a three-month suspended sentence and fined €1,000. Later, he appealed to the Circuit Court and received the Probation Act.  Following this, the complainant wrote to his employer’s HR department stating that the higher court order meant that his conviction had been ‘disposed of’. However, his employer proceeded with an investigation.


The complainant worked for Trinity College Dublin and a further allegation was made against him arising from their Christmas party in 2017 where he made a sexual gesture to another employee.


Disciplinary notes produced showed the complainant had alcohol issues and family problems at that time.


Counsel for the complainant submitted that the HR staff in the university made a ‘value judgement’ on the seriousness of the conviction and that the Circuit Court had treated the matter as trivial. He submitted that the college’s investigation into the complainant’s conduct should have been terminated when the Probation Act was applied in the Circuit Court


The Adjudicator found that, if he was to agree with the complainant’s submission, that is, that the college was legally obliged to ignore his guilty plea after the application of the Probation Act, that the legislation would need to expressly provide the offender with additional related protections. However, there are no such provisions, the Adjudicator found.


Consequently, the complainant’s dismissal was deemed not unfair in the circumstances.


Leahy v Trinity College Dublin WRL No. ADJ 00038873 (21/03/23).