In the recent Labour Court decision of Permanent TSB v Christopher Callan, it was found that the dismissal of a senior employee (“Mr. Callan”) who worked in a control function, by Permanent TSB (“PTSB”) was fair as it was within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer. This decision arose from an appeal of the original ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”), where it was found that the dismissal of Mr. Callan was unfair, and Mr. Callan was awarded €10,000.
Mr. Callan’s Case
Mr. Callan, an employee of PTSB for over 10 years, instructed a customer to endorse a bank draft on behalf of her husband, which was then lodged into the customer’s account. Subsequently, upon realising his error of judgment, he informed his manager of the mistake, which ultimately lead to his dismissal.
Mr. Callan challenged PTSB’s decision as being unfair and brought a claim under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977 – 2015 before the WRC. His position was as follows
- firstly, he had a clean and unblemished record of over 10 years and in realising his mistake he immediately brought it to the attention of his manager and acknowledged the seriousness of the breach of PTSB’s policies;
- secondly, as PTSB did not suspend him pending the investigation – this shows that PTSB continued to trust him; and
- lastly the dismissal was not a proportionate sanction in comparison to the wrongdoing, and his unblemished record.
PTSB’s defence was premised on the regulatory role of Mr. Callan. His role was classified as a “Controlled Function” as defined by the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (the “Act”). The Act required PTSB to regularly complete due diligence to assess Mr. Callan’s fitness and probity. To further meet the requirements of the Act, PTSB had a suite of policies and procedures which included fraud prevention, cheque handling and cashing, and a code of ethics. PTSB noted that all staff received training on these policies and they were made aware that if they failed to follow the policies, it could result in disciplinary action.
PTSB explained that Mr. Callan’s long service meant he undoubtedly had undisputed knowledge of the importance of his regulated role, the standards of which he ought to upkeep and the potential consequences of breaching PTSB’s procedures and policies.
Mr Callan’s breach of policies was seen as a material breach, given PTSB’s requirement to adhere to at all times, all rules and regulations set down by the Central Bank and more particularly those that were set out in the Act. As such when considering the appropriate disciplinary action, PTSB did consider whether a lesser sanction of dismissal was appropriate, but given he held a regulated role and was aware of fitness and probity standards, PTSB decided that dismissal was the most appropriate sanction.
Labour Court Findings
The Labour Court overturned the WRC’s decision and upheld PTSB’s decision to dismiss Mr. Callan.
This decision was premised on whether or not PTSB acted in a reasonable manner in coming to the decision to dismiss. The Labour Court found that the dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses available to PTSB, given his regulated role.
This decision is notable for a number of reasons:
- This is one of few decisions in respect of breaches by employees in regulated roles;
- The length of service and the record of an employee, albeit used as a defence of Mr. Callan, came against him as he was fully aware of the repercussions of such a breach; and
- Even though he admitted his breach, this did not immunise him from the possibility of dismissal.