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An Incoming Rise in Whistle-blower Claims?

By January 24, 2022June 26th, 2024No Comments

The Supreme Court recently issued a decision that has caused some concern among employers. In Baranya v Rosderra Irish Meats Group Ltd (2021) IES 77, it was held that a personal grievance can potentially also be considered a protected disclosure for the purposes of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the “Act”).

In this case the Plaintiff had issued proceedings against his employer, claiming that he was dismissed because of whistleblowing. Plaintiff had raised concerns with his employer regarding the pain he was experiencing, which he claimed was due to the work his employer had required him to do. Following a disputed exchange, the Plaintiff claimed that he was unfairly dismissed for bringing the matter to his employer’s attention by way of protected disclosure.

The Plaintiff sought to rely on s.11(1)(c) of the Act, which provides that an employee dismissed for making a protect disclosure does not need to have a minimum of 1 years’ service in order to qualify for protection.

Accordingly, the question arose as to whether a personal grievance could be a protected disclosure.

The Plaintiff was unsuccessful in the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court and in the High Court. However, the Supreme Court held that a complaint about an employee’s own treatment could potentially be a protected disclosure. In reaching his decision, Mr. Justice Hogan held that Part 5(3)(d) of the Act sets out that a relevant wrongdoing in the context of a protected disclosure could arise where “the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered”.

Accordingly, the case was remitted to the Labour Court so that they could revisit the claim and reach a decision on the factual position in respect of which there was a conflict of evidence.

It is too early to judge the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Baranya case. However, it is foreseeable that employees taking unfair dismissal claims will try to connect their claims to circumstances which could obtain protected disclosure protections.

It is essential that, where employers anticipate possible employment litigation, they seek professional employment law advice early.

For information on any employment law matter please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon or Conor White on 01 296 0666.