Sacked worker's €15k payout is doubled after Dunnes launch appeal
The decision by retail giant Dunnes Stores to appeal a €15,000 damages award to an assistant manager it had dismissed has backfired.
The Labour Court doubled the award made by the Workplace Relations Commission to €30,000 after finding that Dunnes discriminated against Mary Doyle Guidera on the grounds of her disability when dismissing her.
Ms Doyle Guidera, who went sick in June 2014, was dismissed in September 2016 because of her "continued absence from work".
Dunnes claimed that prior to her dismissal she was "unable to provide an indication of a date of return to work".
It also claimed she could not provide any "new or updated medical information or opinion" about her illness.
Ms Doyle Guidera, who joined Dunnes in 2003, told the court that she was an exemplary employee.
She said that she was certified sick in 2014 "and over the succeeding period she continued to suffer from stress and anxiety".
In January 2016, her GP sent an update to Dunnes saying that it was not possible to predict with certainty when she would be fit to return to work.
Ms Doyle Guidera had regular meetings with Dunnes throughout 2016 to provide updates on her condition.
At a meeting on September 12, 2016, Dunnes's regional manager sought a definitive return to work in the near future.
At the meeting, Ms Doyle Guidera produced a referral letter to consultants, after which the manager left the room for 10 minutes.
On his return, he said he was terminating her employment, but with notice.
Ms Doyle Guidera argued that Dunnes's decision was reached in the absence of impending medical advice that would address its request for a return-to-work date.
She said Dunnes was obliged by law "to make whatever reasonable accommodation might be necessary to facilitate her return to work".
Advancing its case, Dunnes said Ms Doyle Guidera's condition was worsening, and that she suffered significant anxiety when visiting the store for meetings throughout her illness.
Dunnes said it appeared that there was no reality of Ms Doyle Guidera returning to work in the near future following the meeting on September 12, 2016.
The retailer said that it was made clear to Ms Doyle Guidera that the company could not hold open her position indefinitely and that, when the time came, dismissal on grounds of incapacity was being considered.
In its findings, the Labour Court said a letter from Ms Doyle Guidera's GP in August 2016 told how her health had improved markedly and how she had been referred to a specialist.
The GP said "any potential return to work will depend on the outcome of this specialist visit".
The court found that Ms Doyle Guidera's inability to definitively address the demand for a return-to-work date in September 2016 was a function of her medical advice related to her disability.