Civil servant loses challenge over being disciplined by department
Posted on 25th February 2020 at 21:46
A higher executive officer in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has lost a High Court appeal over being disciplined.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said there was a “legally sound” basis for the Labour Court finding that the disciplinary process related to Paschal Hosford was not associated, as Mr Hosford claimed, with him having made a protected disclosure.
Mr Hosford, a manager in the department’s finance section since 2014, was given a final written warning in 2017 over what his superiors said was disruptive behaviour and refusal to comply with reasonable management instructions.
He also allegedly failed to comply with civil service policies and codes of practice in relation to behaviour toward other colleagues, including by referring to statements and opinions of colleagues as “nonsense” and “waffle”.
It was claimed he sent emails inappropriately to people who had no direct responsibility for the content of the issues raised.
In his final warning, he was told to behave appropriately and treat all co-workers with dignity and respect, to avoid disruptive behaviour and comply with reasonable instructions.
Mr Hosford unsuccessfully appealed that decision under the internal procedures. He then made a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in which he claimed the disciplinary process was used to penalise him for having made a protected disclosure.
Not well founded
A WRC adjudication officer rejected his appeal and he brought a further appeal to the Labour Court, which said his complaints were not well founded as it affirmed the WRC decision.
Mr Hosford took a further appeal to the High Court claiming, among other things, that the Labour Court erred in law by not making findings that two matters within the disciplinary process were protected disclosures.
He also claimed the Labour Court erred by not recognising that “a certain and considerable amount of dissent and of raising of a critical voice....goes hand in hand with whistleblowing and does not represent disloyalty to an employer or colleagues or of meriting discipline”. The department opposed the appeal.
Dismissing his appeal on Tuesday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said that while Mr Hasford was entitled to protections afforded by the 2014 Protected Disclosures Act, the issue in this case was the extent of the protections.
Mr Hosford had submitted some of the emails sent by him, to people whom management said had nothing to do with the issues, were protected disclosures.
Management had argued it was not the content of these emails which caused the decision to discipline him but the “practice of widespread mailing of internal colleagues and external parties”.
The Labour Court had found the disciplinary procedure was founded, among other reasons, on his “repeated widespread communication rather than on any matter associated with his having made a protected disclosure”.
Mr Justice Meenan said there was a “clear legally sound basis” for the Labour Court to find his claims under the protected disclosure law were not well founded and he was therefore not entitled to the protection afforded by that law.
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