A mechanic who left work because of ‘work related stress’ fails in his case for constructive dismissal; EAT says the ‘burden of proof very high’.
Constructive dismissal cases are difficult to win because the burden of proof is on the employee to prove that she had no other option but to resign due to the unreasonableness of the employer.
The January, 2013 decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in the case of Daniel O’Gorman v Glen Tyre Company Limited illustrates this.
In this case Mr. O’Gorman was a mechanic who had gone on sick leave in May, 2010 and did not return to work. He resigned from his position in September, 2010.
Mr. O’Gorman brought a case for constructive dismissal.
Decision of EAT
The Employment Appeals Tribunal in its decision referred to the burden of proof on the employee as being a ‘very high one’. It held that the employee must prove that his resignation was not voluntary.
The EAT must look at the contract and decide whether there has been a significant breach of the employment contract going to the root of the contract.
If there has not been a breach by the employer the EAT will then look at the conduct of the employer and employee and decide on the ‘reasonableness’ of the decision of the employee to resign.
The claim by the claimant for constructive dismissal fell under three headings:
- The excessive workload placed on him
- Exclusion in the workplace, for example at lunch breaks
- Being bullied and harassed in the workplace.
Mr. O’Gorman suffered from Asperger Syndrome.
Mr. O’Gorman left work in May, 2010 and did not return due to stress, according to his parents and GP who stated it was work related. However, the employer stated that he did not know this until he received the 2nd medical certificate.
The EAT held that it is crucial in a constructive dismissal case that the employee fully informs the employer of the complaints being made against him and gives the employer the opportunity to resolve the problems.
Interestingly, the EAT in this held that the parents of the claimant had a duty to let the employer know of the issues.
The EAT found no significant breach of contract going to the root of the contract which would have prevented the employee from carrying out his duties as per the contract.
The EAT then examined the conduct of both parties and found that the decision of the employee to resign was not a reasonable one.
The claimant’s claim failed.
For claimant: Cathy McGrady BL instructed by Sharon Devine, Brian D O’Brien & Co. Solicitors, Swords, Co. Dublin
For respondent: Patrick Reidy, Reidy Stafford Solicitors, Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Decision published: Jan. 2013