Workplace Solicitor News
Posted: April 15th, 2020
The Workplace Relations Commission has issued a directive for a publican, retailer and post office operator to pay his ex-wife €9,500 following what was ruled her unfair dismissal from the family company that she had been employed by during their marriage.
The woman was let go from her position in the family company in June 2019 after an investigation into her ‘top-up’ withdrawals of €1,000 at a time from the business to the couple’s personal joint bank account.
The woman, who was also a director of the company, initiated a wrongful dismissals claim with the Workplace Relations Commission as a result of this due to the nature of her dismissal from her position in the business.
Ms McElduff informed the WRC hearing that the manner of her termination from her role had fallen “far short of the requirements of any fair disciplinary procedure” and added that she was not given any indication prior to her sacking that she may be dismissed.
The hearing was informed that an independent investigator returned findings that indicated, from February 5, 2018, and February 14, 2019, €25,160 was transferred online to the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife in 19 different transactions.
Along with this, from August 31, 2017, and November 30, 2018, a total of €30,250 in 29 different money transfers transactions was also lodged into the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife as cash lodgements. The husband said he had no management over the joint account.
The woman was informed, in a letter of dismissal that this was “totally unacceptable” behaviour. The complainant informed the WRC adjudicator the hearing that she had been advised by an accountant in the company’s accountancy practice that she could top up her wages with withdrawals of €1,000. She went on to say that she was certain that she had transferred the money in a transparent fashion.
The married couple ended their relationship up during September 2017 and the woman has begun judicial separation proceedings.
WRC adjudication officer Anne McElduff ruled the woman’s claim was well based.
Posted: January 6th, 2020
€20,000 Sexual Harassment Compensation has been awarded to a female deli worker who was kissed on the neck against her will and pinched by a male colleague.
Following a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing the supermarket has been ordered to pay the worker in question €20,000 for distress suffered, and the impact of discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Adjudication Officer Gaye Cunningham said that she found the supermarket. She said that “failed to put appropriate measures in place to stop this harassment and sexual harassment from occurring or to reverse its effects. I am satisfied that these incidents were extremely serious in nature in terms of the impact and effect they had on her personally and her working environment.” In addition to this she ordered that all those within the supermarket group with staff management duties must undergo appropriate training in its policies on harassment, bullying and sexual harassment.
After taking up the position of deli worker in May 2018, the employee told the tribunal that verbal and physical sexual harassment by a male colleague began approximately one month later. The abuse included inappropriate sexual comments about young girls who came into the shop. She claimed that when he was asked to stop, as they were clearly young school girls, he stated that they looked old enough to him.
The complainant gave examples of times where she felt personally endangered. This included when the alleged perpetrator pinned her against or near a fridge and made lewd and sexually suggestive comments to her. She told the tribunal that a manager witnessed some of the behaviour of the alleged perpetrator and when asked to take action, the manager laughed and told the man to stop as the deli worker was from Limerick and she would stab him.
The complainant told the WRC tribunal that she was the focus of almost daily sexual assault or harassment. The woman submitted an official complaint and a second female employee also made an allegation that the man touched her inappropriately. Due to this man was moved to work in the storeroom. However, after a few days there, he went absent due to illness.
At the WRC the deli manager admitted to telling the alleged perpetrator to stop as the complainant was from Limerick and could stab him. However, he said that he thought of this as a joke and did not think the complainant was offended by this.
The store owner said that he put the allegations to the male deli worker in question and he denied them. He (the owner) said that the investigation into the complaints could not be concluded as the former male deli worker had since left the country.
Ms Cunningham ruled that the supermarket not finishing its investigation to be the most egregious flaw in the whole incident.
Posted: December 5th, 2019
A former Facebook content moderator today submitted a legal action to the High Court, which is expected to be followed by more compensation claims for other moderators, due to the psychological trauma he sustained from viewing disturbing and graphic content.
Mr Chris Gray submitted the workplace trauma compensation action, stating that he was expected to view a range of inappropriate content on a daily basis and filter out disturbing content with a 98% accuracy rating. Content that was labelled inappropriate included “various scenes of people dying in different accidents … set to a musical soundtrack. [Gray] had a long argument with the quality point of contact [a senior role] about whether the music meant that the person posting it was ‘celebrating’ or whether it just counted as disturbing content.”
The claimant said that he was traumatized and under an unacceptable amount of stress due to the nature of the content he viewed and his daily work targets. Mr Gray developed He developed difficulty sleeping and said that would regularly wake during the night due to nightmares. He stated: “It took me a year after I left to realise how much I’d been affected by the job. I don’t sleep well, I get in stupid arguments, have trouble focusing.”
Mr Gray, who is being represented by solicitor, Diane Treanor of Coleman Legal Partners, is likely to be the first of a number of content moderators working with CPL Solutions and Facebook to file a compensation claim due to trauma. Ms Treanor said that content moderators based in Berlin and Barcelona have also contacted her firm with an interest in joining a lawsuit. Mr Gray remarked: “If I can get them better working conditions, better care, then that also improves the quality of the content moderation decisions and the impact on society.”
Facebook released a statement which said: “We are committed to providing support for those that review content for Facebook as we recognise that reviewing certain types of content can sometimes be difficult. Everyone who reviews content for Facebook goes through an in-depth, multi-week training program on our Community Standards and has access to extensive psychological support to ensure their wellbeing. This includes 24/7 on-site support with trained practitioners, an on-call service, and access to private healthcare from the first day of employment. We are also employing technical solutions to limit their exposure to graphic material as much as possible. This is an important issue, and we are committed to getting this right.”
UK-based not-for-profit group Foxglove is supporting the court case and Director Cori Crider said: “The reason we’ve got involved is that we think that social media factory floors are unsafe and need to be cleared up. In a decade we’re going to look back on this as we did at meat packing plants at the turn of the century. Facebook’s only going to pay attention to things when they know that they’ve got a typhoon bearing down on them. What I’d like to see is the moderators realising how much power they have if they just organise. Because let’s face it, social media as we know it could not exist without the labour people like Chris provide.”
Posted: November 6th, 2019
A garda whose finger was broken by a person being deported quit the force 10 years early because of depression after the incident has been awarded approximately €76,000.
The Garda had initially take the work injury compensation state against the State for €310,893 in relation to a loss of earnings. In addition to this there was a claim filed seeking damages for personal injuries related to the physical damage to his right small finger around 20 years ago, Mr Justice Michael Twomey said in a High Court compensation ruling.
Judge Twomey said the loss-of-earnings figure had been claimed on the basis that the incident in which his finger had been broken had led to him becoming depressed and being forced to retire from the force.
The decision was taken to anonymise his compensation application and referred to the garda only as Garda B as the case involved very personal details about the garda’s family.
The Judge said that said Garda B had received two injections and no other medical treatment for the fracture and made a complete physical recovery. The main stumbling point in the case remained the extent to which Garda B’s psychiatric injuries could be attributed to the incident when his little finger had been fractured.
Judge Twomey said awards must be fair both to a plaintiff and defendant and modest damages should be awarded in relation to minor injuries, moderate damages for middling injuries and severe injuries should result in damages which were distinguishable from catastrophic injuries.
Due to this he awarded €42,699 for loss of earnings, €10,000 for physical pain and suffering as a result of his fractured finger and €10,000 for psychological pain and suffering caused by his depression arising from the incident.
Judge Twomey also awarded the garda €8,180 for out-of-pocket medical expenses in relation to both the physical and mental suffering and €5,100 for loss of earnings due to absence on sick leave because of the fracture alone – a total sum of €75,981 damages. The damages had also to be proportionate to the general cap of €450,000.
Posted: October 15th, 2019
A facilities company has been issued an order to pay €30,000 to a female catering assistant who had her bottom pinched by a chef/manager in a series of sexual harassment incidents involving the senior male employee.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne, said in her ruling: “As an instance of sexual harassment, a pinch on the bottom may not be at the extreme end of the scale, but it is well within the definition of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It was also at the end of a continuum of incidents including a punch in the ribs, being sniffed at, constant unwanted touching and making offensive sexual remarks about the complainant to her husband.”
The €30,000 award represents 18 months income for the worker. The company provides catering services at the offices of a government department.
The Polish worker submitted a complaint of sexual harassment in relation to the bottom pinch to her employer on the day the incident occurred, February 1 2018. The chef/manager refuted the allegations and counter-claimed he had a sanitiser bottle in his hand and that the bottle brushed up against the female.
Following an investigation by the employer the chef’s claims were accepted, as was his explanation of other issues raised by the female worker and by the extended team.
In making her award, Byrne stated that she believed the catering assistant when she said that the chef/manager pinched her bottom. She said: “It is my view that the effect of the sexual harassment suffered by the complainant was compounded by the failure of the respondent to give any credence to her evidence and I find that, of itself, this demonstrated a lack of respect for her. To compensate for this treatment, I decide that the respondent is to pay the complainant compensation of €30,000, which is equivalent to 18 months’ wages.”
Posted: September 10th, 2019
€10,200 in constructive dismissal compensation must be paid by to a long-serving Bus Éireann driver after a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Dan Fitzpatrick said that he has been left ‘deeply traumatised’ over the way he was constructively dismissed by the bus company. Mr Fitzpatrick had been working for Bus Eireann for 16 years in the Galway region. The company told him that he would need to step down from his position or face being terminated due to an incident involving an elderly passenger in November 2017.
In the incident in question Mr Fitzpatrick said that he physically escorted an elderly passenger off a Galway city route bus service after an angry exchange between the two and repeated requests from Mr Fitzpatrick for the man to depart the bus. Once the gentleman was off the bus Mr Fitzpatrick got back into his driver’s seat and proceeded to drive off.
The day following the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick was called to his supervisor’s office where he viewed three different CCTV recording of what occurred and was immediately suspended pending a subsequent disciplinary hearing.
If he chose to remain in his position and be fired and he would have no longer have qualified for his €10,000 to €15,000 retirement gratuity. due to this he retired on November 27, 2017, after what he described to the WRC as “a flawed and unfair disciplinary investigation” by Bus Éireann. He then submitted a claim for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act with the WRC.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Ray Flaherty said that Mr Fitzpatrick had no choice but to retire when he was told failure to do so would lead to him not qualifying for his retirement gratuity and referred to the gratuity ultimatum to Mr Fitzpatrick as “unreasonable and unacceptable”.
In his ruling, Mr Flaherty said that comments made to Mr Fitzpatrick by a supervisor that “there is no excuse for this behaviour” in the incident and “you will never work in the company again” backed up Mr Fitzpatrick’s claim that fair process was not followed.
Bus Éireann were not present at the WRC oral hearing but a Bus Éireann representative commented: “Bus Éireann do not comment on individual cases and we have no further comment”.
Posted: August 20th, 2019
The possibility of working conditions and duties leading to the psychological trauma of social media moderators has been highlighted in a BBC documentary.
The report detailed the working experience of Shawn Speaglem who worked as a Facebook content moderator for a third party company Cognizant, based in Florida in the United States. Despite have completed a non-disclosure agreement about his time in the role, Shawn opted to disregard this so he could speak out on the pictures and images that workers have to view due to Facebook’s moderation policies and processes.
He said: “One of my first videos that I remember looking at was two teenagers grabbing an iguana by the tail and they smashed it onto the pavement while a third person was recording it. And the iguana was screaming and the kids just would not stop until the iguana was just pasted on the ground. I’ve seen people put fireworks in a dog’s mouth and duct tape it shut. I’ve seen cannibalism videos, I’ve seen terrorism propaganda videos.”
Shawn told the documentary makers that he has suffered great stress, weight gain and depression due to the content he had to view as part of his expected duties. He said: “I felt like I was a zombie in my seat. It really gets to you because I don’t have that bystander syndrome where I’m OK just watching this suffering and not contributing any way to deter it.”
In Ireland, where the European Union headquarters of many social media platforms are located in Dublin, a legal action is being considered on behalf of moderators in relation to their working conditions. Facebook has faced actions similar to this in the past. In September 2018 Selena Scola, a former content moderator with the company submitted a legal action against the company in relation to the mental effects of the work was had to complete. She claimed that the viewing of disturbing images and videos lead to her developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the time that she was employed at the Facebook headquarters in California. Subsequent to this two more former Facebook content moderators issued similar claims and, as a result, Facebook may now face a class-action lawsuit in relation to this issue.
Continual and repeated exposure to harmful content is an unfortunate side effect of the as part a Moderators role. These side effects can lead to psychological injury and traumatic mental damage to the Moderators over time due to the content that they have to view due to the review and publishing policy of the social media platforms that they work for.
Such trauma can have a great impact depending on the actual content witnessed, the provision and availability of proper support mechanisms from employers to allow staff to deal with work-related trauma and work expectations. The latter refers to the level of work and output required to be completed each day. It is the obligation (duty of care) of the employer to ensure that they provide a safe place of work, a safe system of work and to prevent harm to their employees.
Any content moderators who have suffered due to their working conditions, or required outputs, should look after their own health and seek help as soon as possible. it is also advisable to contact an experienced solicitor to ensure that the company is acting with a duty of care to them.
Posted: July 2nd, 2019
A Co Meath garda whose legs were crushed, when a man rammed him with a stolen car and then drove over his legs in August 2015, has been awarded €975,000 workplace assault compensation by the High Court.
At the time of the incident, Garda Ciaran Murrihy was on duty with three other gardaí when he was deliberately crushed by a stolen car into a garda car vehicle. The incident result in him breaking both of his legs.
Patrick McDonagh, the driver of the stolen car, ,was 26 years old at the time and later later pleaded guilty to having caused serious harm to Garda Murrihy. The outcome of the trial was that he was jailed for seven years in February 2016.
At the High Court Judge Michael Twomey was advised by Barrister Conor E Byrne all parties by consent had agreed on a figure of compensation of €975,000 for Garda Murrihy in relation to the accident and the injuries that he received.
Mr Justice Twomey said that he was both with both parties for reaching agreement on the level of compensation without a full hearing, which he said was always the preferable approach in cases like this.
Garda Murrihy and Garda Lucy Wood, who was also injured in the incident, had been on duty at Clonusk Rise, Hamlet Lane, Balbriggan, on August 2015 when they noticed the stolen Citroen Xsara car that had been stolen earlier that day.
The court was informed that Garda Murrihy – of Macetown, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath – had to roll away to so that his legs were not being repeatedly run over.
Judge Twomey approved the settlement and on the application of Ms Needham directed the release of Garda Murrihy’s medical files.
Garda Murrihy said, in a victim impact statement to the criminal court, that he is still haunted by the vision of McDonagh driving the stolen car directly at him. He told the court that he had gone from being a proud garda and active father-of-two to feeling useless. he said: “McDonagh stole my life from me and has left me with so little”.
Posted: June 15th, 2019
A Garda who was injured in a violent struggle with a prisoner has been awarded a €290,000 workplace injury compensation settlement after he sustained a knee injury.
Sergeant Donal Cronin, aged 50, could complete all of his daily work duties due to the knee injury. He also claimed that he was overlooked for a number of promotions due to the injuries. The overall Garda Workplace injury compensation figure awarded to Garda Cronin was €286,630. The incident happened at Limerick Circuit Court on July 9, 2004.
Presiding Judge Justice Bernard Barton was advised that Sergeant Cronin had been successful the examinations required for promotion to the inspector rank with distinction in 2001. Regardless of this was unsuccessful in both rounds of promotion interview board competitions during 2010 and in 2014.
Garda Cronin, the Judge was informed, was appointed to the position of court presenter – a job that he could perform despite the difficulties suffered as a result of his injuries.
Sergeant Cronin’s legal counsel claimed that he was unsuccessful in his bid for promotion on both occasions due to the injuries he sustained. In addition to this the Court was told that Garda Cronin would likely need an operation for a knee replacement in the neat future.
Among those who providing evidence in Court a former chief superintendent who said that the score Sergeant Cronin had reached from the interview board for promotion was excellent but the system was “unfit for purpose” as it did not make take in to account the injuries sustained when an applicant was suffering from a disability.
This claims were argued by a sergeant garda on behalf of the minister for finance and public expenditure. He added that there was no clear thinking to say that the injuries suffered while Garda Cronin was on duty were an obstacle to the promotion to the rank of inspector.
He also said that it was not uncommon for a candidate coming from an administrative post without major operational frontline experience to be given the post of inspector and that said the promotion procedure was heavily policed. The interview board was not given the details of a candidate’s medical records as part of the promotion process – just four of 17 sergeants in the Limerick division were successful in their application for promotion to inspector, two of which were for administrative positions.
A calculated figure for the amount of compensation due to Sergeants Cronin, incorporating future loss of income due to being passed over for promotion of, of €166,630 was submitted to the court. Justice Bernard Barton awarded him (Garda Cronin) another €120,000 in general damages due to the serious injury to his left knee that lead to physical disability and ongoing pain and discomfort he had to deal with
The Judge told the Court said he was satisfied with the award and said that he felt if Sergeant Cronin reapplied for promotion, his injuries would not block a potential “a successful outcome”.
Posted: May 30th, 2019
An eight-year-old girl who sustained second-degree scald burns after a cup of hot chocolate fell onto her lap during a Ryanair flight has settled her High Court action for €150,000 flight injury compensation.
At the time of the accident American citizen Sriya Venkata Neti was on board a Ryanair flight which was travelling from Rome to Krakow, Poland accompanied by her parents. When she was taking a sip of the hot chocolate the hot liquid and the paper cup dropped on to her lap.
A medical report submitted to court claimed that the hot liquid pooled on the seat causing significant burning pain and the Sriya’s mother had to remove her from her seat belt and take off her clothing. Her mother said that her daughter’s skin that was burned was gone and blisters were forming in other areas and the child was crying due to the pain.
Now 11 years old Sriya Venkata Neti, who lives in Freemont, California, took the legal action via her father Srinivas Neti against Ryanair in relation to the incident that occurred on the Rome Krakow flight on June 25, 2016. Ryanair refuted all the claims that were made.
Hugh Mohan SC, representing Sriya, advised the court that this was a very unusual incident as, under the Warsaw Convention, if a passenger on an international flight can show that bodily injuries were caused by an accident, an unexpected or unusual event that is outside of the passenger’s control, then the passenger is not required to show negligence or fault as against the airline.
An affidavit submitted to the court by the girl’s father Srinivas Neti informed the court that the scarring has now improved. It went on to say that Sriya has made a good recovery and the condition of her injuries has improved.
In approving the Ryanair compensation settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross said when Sriya was burned she must have suffered a great deal of pain. He also took in to account that the family now wanted to get on with their lives and to put the incident in the past.