Leading Professional Services Firms Lose Unfair Dismissals Cases

Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney were ordered to pay a former senior associate lawyer at the firm compensation of €90,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) for unfair dismissal of the lawyer who had 27 years of service with the firm.
The chartered accountancy firm, Ernst & Young, was odered to pay €60,000 by the EAT for unfair dismissal.
The stockbroking firm, Dolmen Securities, was ordered by the EAT to pay €30,625 in compensation to a director of its Galway branch after it concluded the director had been unfairly dismissed.

Award highlights the need for proper procedures when selecting for redundancy

In the Eversheds O’Donnell Sweeney case, the decision was made by the company in September 2008 to restructure the property department arising from the downturn in the property market. The number of positions were reduced from 5 to 3. Interviews were held for the 3 positions.
The EAT determined that marks awarded to the lawyer in the redundancy selection interview “were influenced by matters not derived from her performance there, but from information the interviewers were in possession of and to which the claimant had not been given an opportunity to respond. This rendered the interview process unfair.”
During the interview, there were no questions asked of the claimant regarding her client skills, or her legal or technical skills, and no issues were put to her regarding ‘historical difficulties’.
The words “historical difficulties” had been noted on the claimants scoresheet.

Award highlights the need to adhere to ones own procedures

In the Ernst & Young case, the EAT ruled that the company did not adhere to its own procedures with the result that the dismissal process was deemed to be “inherently unfair”.
In this case, the claimant had been given a performance rating of 3 out of 5 in his performance review. However, in October 2008, the company issued him with a written warning due to his “continuing poor performance and extremely low level of chargeable hours”.
Following two further ‘capability meetings’, the claimant was issued with a final written warning in November 2008. The last ‘capability’ meeting was held in February 2009.
The company insisted that the claimant had an appeal hearing in February 2009 but the claimant siad it was a ‘grilling session’
The EAT stated that “… there was a lack of any reference to appeal procedure in the disciplinary letter and there was no notes from the meeting held to dismiss the claimant.”
The EAT also concluded that no alternative options other than dismissal were considered by the company prior to the decision to dismiss.
This case highlights the need for proper appeal procedures and notice should be given to employees in the disciplinary letters of the opportunity to appeal and how to do so.


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