GUEST BLOG: Whistleblowing case in the Labour Court

Judgment has issued in what is being reported as the first successful claim under the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014 at the Labour Court.  The employee was awarded €17,500 compensation for being penalised by the employer, a nursing home. 

The employee had made complaints about alleged mistreatment of patients to the relevant regulator, HIQA, and the employer.  When the employer looked into these allegations, some of the employee’s work colleagues alleged that the employee was driven by malice.  As a result the employer started an investigation into the allegations of malice and suspended the employee on basic pay.  Some months later the suspension ended and the allegations of malice were found by the employer to be groundless.

The Labour Court found that the employee would not have been suspended “but for” her having made the allegations of mistreatment to the employer and HIQA.  In other words, the Labour Court found that the report to HIQA was a protected disclosure and that there to be a causal link between the making of the protected disclosure and the suspension on pay.

The judgment in this case will be relevant in terms of arguing the causal link between the making of a protected disclosure and any resulting penalisation.  However, it is also noteworthy that the employee received relatively substantial compensation for the type of penalisation found by the Labour Court.

Employers should be aware of the risks of whistleblowing claims and they should ensure that they have a clear policy published for staff on the procedure to be followed in making protected disclosures (whistleblowing).

About James

James Scanlon is Head of Employment Law at Maples and Calder’s Dublin office and was assisted by Sinéad Egan, Associate. Should you have any queries on this or any employment matter please contact James or your usual Maples contact.

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