Farm manager with MS wins €31,000 after unfair dismissal

By Gordon Deegan

A former farm manager who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) has won over €31,000 in a judgement by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) today, Monday, April 8, after he was “unfairly dismissed” by his farmer employer.

The manager was dismissed from his position in June 2018, when the farmer allegedly told him that most people with his condition “would have fallen off the edge of the table by now”.

The manager was also told by his employer that if he took disability “now”, he would have a “better quality of life, and that if they met across the table in 10 years’ time, that hopefully he would have no aids or wheelchair”.

The farmer was ordered to pay his former manager €31,240 by the WRC.

However, the farmer denied saying these thing to the complainant.

Marie Flynn, the WRC adjudication officer, said she was satisfied that that complaint of unfair dismissal was “well founded”, and that the farmer did not take “meaningful steps” to asses if there was a substantial reason why the manager could not continue to work.

The complainant was diagnosed with MS in 2004 and immediately made his employer aware of this; according to the manager, he never missed days of work on account of his condition, apart from three days seven years ago.

The man performed a number of jobs in his role as manager, including transporting materials, driving vehicles and operating machinery.

The reason that the farmer gave for dismissing the complainant was that there was an “insurance issue” with his condition; the following month, July 2018, the farmer stopped paying the manager’s wages.

Then, in August, the manager attended his place of work with letters from the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and his neurologist; both of these letters said that the man should be fit to do his normal work.

He claimed that he was not given any notice before he was dismissed, and was given no opportunity to express his views in relation to the termination.

The judgment by the adjudicating officer ordered the farmer to pay €29,000 for the unfair dismissal – representing one-year’s salary –  and €2,240 for not providing the manager with a contract or a copy of the terms and conditions of his employment.

She said that, on the balance of probability, she preferred the narrative of the complainant, and also took in to account his “probable difficulty” in securing future employment.