A retired government labor inspector has failed in a High Court action over what he claims was a penalization of him in his job over his allegations of pro-employer bias in the Relations Commission in the workplace (WRC).
George McLoughlin’s allegations under protected disclosure legislation have been found, following an independent investigation carried out on behalf of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to be without merit.
However, he says that following the disclosure in October 2015, the WRC took active steps to have him fired by making ‘fabricated’ allegations about his integrity and competence to carry out his role as an inspector. work.
Reasons for difficulties
Mr McLoughlin (70), who retired at 65 despite his attempts to seek an extension on grounds of hardship including needing medical treatment after heart surgery, appealed to the High Court against the Labor Court regarding the decisions to dismiss certain complaints he had filed. The minister was a notary.
Judge Anthony Barr on Thursday dismissed his case. The judge wanted her to put an end to “these acrimonious proceedings and allow the applicant (Mr McLoughlin) to enjoy his retirement in the company of his wife and daughters”.
The judge said that since 1999 Mr McLoughlin had worked as an inspector for the National Employee Rights Agency (NERA), later part of the WRC, which he said was largely involved in the protection of vulnerable employees such as foreign workers.
In May 2015, he raised concerns about NERA conducting inspections and, in particular, he was concerned about what he saw as pro-employer bias on the part of NERA management. and the WRC. He raised his concerns with then-WRC manager Kieran Mulvey and assistant manager Padraig Dooley.
In September of the same year, he made a protected disclosure to the Secretary General of the Minister who appointed Turlough O’Sullivan to investigate. Mr. O’Sullivan concluded that his complaint was unfounded.
Earlier, in 2015, Mr McLoughlin brought a libel action against an employer he was investigating due to his work as an inspector. This led WRC lawyers to advise him that it could impact his ability to act effectively as a labor inspector, and they said they were seeking legal advice on the matter.
Mr McLoughlin supported that decision, and the subsequent refusal to move forward what was a disciplinary matter amounted to a penalty. He also claimed that refusing to grant the request to extend his employment beyond the age of 65 was another sanction. He further claimed that he was denied access to the WRC’s information and technology system.
In his action in the High Court, he argued that these penalties resulted from his having made the protected disclosure.
He alleged that in a decision against him, it was due to alleged bias on the part of Kevin Foley, president of a division of the labor court, who had previously worked with Kieran Mulvey when they sat both to the Labor Relations Commission (later to become the WRC).
The labor court dismissed his claims, inter alia on the ground that the suspension of disciplinary proceedings on the grounds of the defamation proceedings brought by Mr McLoughlin was linked to the fact that he had been on sick leave until August 2016 and that he would retire in January 2017. A separate wrongful dismissal claim related to his retirement was also dismissed in 2018.
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Judge Barr was satisfied that the Labor Court was entitled to conclude that his claim regarding continued employment after age 65 was filed out of time.
Regarding his allegation of bias, the judge said that Mr. Mulvey and Mr. Foley were well known in industrial relations circles and that it was inevitable that one or the other would have to deal with issues that could involve the other involving a particular dispute before him.
The court was not persuaded that this could give rise to an apprehension of objective bias in relation to Mr. Foley’s presidency of the Labor Court hearings in 2018, he said.
He said the evidence suggested Mr McLoughlin was a decent man who carried out his duties as an inspector conscientiously. He had convinced himself he had been fired as a result of WRC action, but he was not in fact fired and retired at 65, the judge heard.