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  • There have been many cases before the Employment Tribunals where the employee, having signed a Resignation Letter and consequently lost his job with the employer company, subsequently issues an Unfair Dismissal Claim before the Tribunal claiming that he did not properly consider the consequences of his actions and requests that the Tribunal ignores the Resignation Letter. The employer will claim that the employee cannot retract this resignation. What is the attitude of the Tribunal?


    I`m off

    I quit

    In the case of Employee v Employer [2014] IR EAT UD2116/2011 issued under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-2007 the claimant worked for the respondent, a food distribution company, as a warehouse worker and, occasionally, as a van delivery driver. In this case the claimant had signed a letter of resignation but argued later that he signed it under duress.

    Resignation Letter

    Letter of Resignation

    The claimant had a disagreement with the owner following a delivery error and was given a Written Warning, which he disagreed with and handed back. Following a further incident the claimant was told he was suspended pending an Investigation. Soon after, a further meeting took place in the respondent’s car where the claimant was given various papers to sign. The claimant signed the papers as he later stated that he felt threatened and stressed and was told that the papers were of no significance and would be shredded.

    The Tribunal Decision

    The Tribunal considered the claim before it, the legal background and previous case law and noted the following:

    (1) The respondent company did not follow its own Grievance procedure;
    (2) The claimant was given a Letter of Resignation to sign in car in a car park, drafted by the respondent’s representative;
    (3) He was not given the opportunity to take independent legal advice;
    (4) The claimant was not given the statements taken from fellow employees/third parties;
    (5) The claimant was not told to take independent legal advice;
    (6) The claimant was not given a “cooling off period” which would have allowed him reconsider his position: In Southern –v- Franks Charlesly & Co. [1981] I.R.L.R.278 it was noted that:

    A reasonable period of time should be allowed to lapse and if circumstances should arise during that period which put the employer on notice that further enquiry is desirable to see if the resignation was really intended and can be properly assumed, then such enquiry is ignored at the employers risk”.

    Employment Tribunal

    Employment Appeals Tribunal

    The Tribunal found that compensation was the most appropriate redress and awarded the claimant the sum of €30,000.00, under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 To 2007.

    Despite the fact that the employee admitted to misappropriating company property where he had sold company goods for cash to a customer of the company, the Tribunal still believed that a proper and fair Investigation had not been carried out, that the company had not followed  its own Disciplinary Procedure and accordingly that the Dismissal was unfair. The Tribunal appeared to be very much guided by the fact that dismissal was too grave a sanction for a person of the claimant`s age and that perhaps a less severe punishment might have been considered had the Respondent complied with its own procedures.

    The Tribunal was satisfied that the Claimant`s resignation was a “forced resignation” in unacceptable circumstances and awarded the Claimant the substantial sum of €30,000.00.

    No matter how dishonest an Employer may reasonably assume that the employee`s actions were an employer should never assume that the Employment Tribunal will come to the same conclusion. The Tribunal will want to be satisfied that the employer gave the employee every opportunity to save his job. Proper enquiry is ignored at the employer`s risk