EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
CASE NO. UD 1165/2011
CATHERINE MANGAN (CLAIMANT)
CLONTARF CRECHE LIMITED (RESPONDENTS)
Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2007
This was a case in which Mercy Law Resource Centre acted for the claimant Catherine Mangan, when she was referred with her Employment Law case concerning her dismissal from Clontarf Creche Limited on the 25th November 2010. The case was heard in the Employment Appeals Tribunal on the 4th October 2012.
Ms. Mangan had been employed as a childcare worker by the Respondents in the crèche located at the GAA Club in Clontarf. She had been employed by the crèche since 2005 and worked in various class rooms with many children over the years, for example the playschool and after school area.
Ms. Mangan was dismissed for gross misconduct on the 25th November 2010 in relation to an incident that occurred in the crèche on the 23rd November 2010. Ms. Mangan and two other workers were monitoring a group of approximately 17, 7-9 year olds after school children on the Astroturf pitch behind the crèche. The next day, the father of one of the children reported that his son had been held down by two older boys who had pushed a sock into his mouth. Ms. Mangan and the two other workers present on the day did not witness the incident.
The respondents contended that the incident would have occurred between 3.50 p.m. – 4.30 p.m. as groups had 30 – 40 minute slots to play on the Astroturf pitch. During cross examination, the then Assistant Manager admitted that the claimant should not have been left alone to supervise the children when the other two staff members took their tea breaks at this time.
The Manager of the crèche gave evidence that the child’s father wanted an investigation of the matter and she called a meeting with the three staff members at 1.30 p.m. on the 25th November 2010. At that meeting, the claimant, the two other staff members and the three partners of the crèche (to include the Manager) met and the claimant said that she may have been on a break at the time of the incident or else she did not see it happen. The other two staff members did not see the incident either. One of the employees offered her resignation that day which was accepted by the crèche.
There was a further meeting later that day with the three staff members where it was noted that one of them had offered her resignation. The claimant and another staff member had nothing further to say at this meeting. The Manager of the crèche advised them at this meeting that she along with the other partners of the firm had decided that the incident had amounted to gross misconduct and the claimant and the other staff member were immediately dismissed.
During cross – examination the Manager admitted that the boy’s father was putting her under pressure and she also accepted that the claimant was on a break for 15 of the 40 minutes that the children were playing outside. She considered that on the day of the incident crèche procedures had not been followed and that the child had been put at risk unnecessarily which she considered gross misconduct. It was noted that the Manager did not inform the claimant that the meeting was disciplinary in nature or that her job was at risk. Nor did she inform her that she could bring a representative to the meeting with her or that the claimant could appeal the dismissal. The Manager said that she dismissed the claimant for bringing the crèche into disrepute and considered that the child’s life had been in danger which had over-ruled the company disciplinary policies.
Having heard the evidence of the Claimant and considered all the evidence, the Tribunal reverted with their written determination on the 22nd October 2012. They found that the dismissal was procedurally unfair and lacked proportionality. They found that the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007, succeeded and awarded the Claimant compensation, equivalent to a year’s pay.
Mercy Law Resource Centre supported Ms. Mangan’s case because as a result of the dismissal Ms. Mangan was unemployed, unable to pay her bills/ rent and was at risk of becoming homeless. Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing but Ms Mangan was not afforded this by her employers and was dismissed from her job with immediate effect leaving her in the unenviable position of trying to source work in the area of childcare but knowing that her dismissal could affect her future employment prospects. Following the dismissal, Ms. Mangan has not worked in the area of childcare since and is now a full time student, studying in the area of social care.
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