Stoskus -v- Goode Concrete Ltd, [2007] IEHC 432 (2007)

Docket Number:2007 7066 P
Party Name:Stoskus, Goode Concrete Ltd
Judge:Irvine J.
 
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THE HIGH COURT[2007 No. 7066 P]BETWEENVIDMANTAS STOSKUSPLAINTIFF AND

GOODE CONCRETE LIMITEDDEFENDANT

JUDGMENT delivered by Ms. Justice Irvine on the 18th day of December 2007

By plenary summons dated 25th September, 2007 the plaintiff, a lorry driver employed by the defendant, instituted proceedings claiming a number of reliefs arising from the notification to him, by his employers, that he was to be subjected to a disciplinary process on 25th September, 2007. The thrust of the claim made by the plaintiff was to the effect that the procedures adopted by the defendant which ultimately led to his dismissal were in breach of the rules of natural justice and fair procedure.

By order of the High Court dated 25th day of September, 2007 the plaintiff obtained an interim injunction restraining the defendant, pending the hearing of an interlocutory injunction, from ceasing to pay his earnings.

The plaintiff's application for an interlocutory injunction was first returnable before the High Court on 15th October, 2007 and was ultimately heard by this court over two days concluding on 28th November, 2007.

By the time the plaintiff's application for interlocutory relief came on for hearing in the High Court the disciplinary hearing which was initially the subject matter of the plaintiff's concerns had in fact taken place and the defendant had purported to terminate the plaintiff's employment with effect from 11th October, 2007.

In the aforegoing circumstances the plaintiff's application at the interlocutory injunction hearing was confined to seeking a continuation of the order made by Butler J. on 25th September, 2007 restraining the defendants until the trial of the action, from ceasing to pay the plaintiff's salary . This relief was sought subject to the plaintiff's preparedness to undertake not to cross the threshold of the defendant's employment premises but to be ready at all times to carry out such work as might be demanded of him by his employers pending the trial of the action.

Brief Statement of the Facts.

For the purposes of the present application the court received from the respective parties a number of lengthy affidavits which were not confined to the dealings between the plaintiff and the defendant, but were directed to the management by the plaintiff 's solicitors of a significant amount of litigation brought by other employees of the defendant firm. The affidavits filed by the defendant in this respect were destined to suggest professional impropriety on the part of the plaintiff solicitor, firstly in relation to a failure to disclose a number of matters to the court on the application for the interim injunction and further to suggest that this litigation was part of some much greater plan to place the defendant company in a difficult position in terms of the costs of defending an onslaught of claims, in circumstances where the defendants had no prospect, even if successful, in recovering those costs as against the claimants.

The court has considered carefully the assertions made by the defendants and concludes that from the information furnished to the court by both sides that there was no impropriety in how the application for an interim injunction was sought. Further, the defendant's assertions that the fact that so many claims have been made to the Labour Relations Commission or the Equality Tribunal by their employees, represented by P.C. Moore and Company, evidences in some way a type of joint conspiracy on the part of the plaintiff's solicitors and those employees to damage the company is simply untenable. The existence of so many complaints is equally consistent with an inference that the defendant company has scant regard for the statutory rights of its employees when it comes to regulating their working conditions. For these reasons the court concludes that it should ignore the exchanges between the parties relating to matters beyond the facts of this particular case when reaching its conclusion on this application.

The plaintiff commenced his employment with the defendant company on 31st January, 2004. In January 2007 the plaintiff and some further twenty four employees of the defendant company made complaints to the Labour Relations Commission and the Equality Tribunal regarding their conditions of employment. These claims were initially listed for hearing on 8th October, 2007.

At some time in August 2007 the plaintiff was approached by his employers with an offer of 3,500 to settle his claim which was pending before the Equality Tribunal. This offer was rejected by the plaintiff.

On Wednesday 19th September 2007, the plaintiff was invited by the Human Resources Manager of the defendant company to attend a disciplinary meeting on Tuesday 25th September, 2007. It was indicated to the plaintiff that two incidents were to be investigated and that these had occurred on 7th and 14th of September, 2007. The plaintiff was told he could bring a colleague with him to the disciplinary hearing and was further advised that the outcome of the disciplinary hearing could lead to his dismissal.

The plaintiff approached his solicitors regarding the proposed disciplinary meeting and on Monday 24th September, 2007 they wrote to the defendants seeking certain information and assurances. In particular the plaintiff's solicitors sought a copy of his contract and wanted confirmation that the plaintiff was entitled to be legally represented. There were many other matters dealt with in the same letter including demands for translated statements from those who had made complaints against the plaintiff, lists of witnesses and confirmation that certain witnesses would attend the hearing. However, in the context of the ultimate submission made by counsel for the plaintiff these latter points are not of significance.

It should be stated in the course of this judgment that there was much debate in the affidavits as to the fluency of the plaintiff's English, he being a Lithuanian national. The defendants contended that the plaintiff had very good English and that on occasion he had acted as a translator for work colleagues who had poor English. On the other hand the plaintiff asserted that his fluency was not such that would render him fully equipped to deal with a disciplinary hearing and that he would be compromised by reason of this fact in the absence of legal representation at the disciplinary hearing.

In what can only be described as an extraordinary letter, but one which perhaps which can be partly explained by the defendants apparent frustration in dealing with ongoing claims by their employees, Ms. Orla Goode, on behalf of the defendant company replied by letter dated 25th September, 2007 to the effect that the plaintiff's solicitor had no locus standi in relation to the dispute and that their requests were of no relevance to the disciplinary proceedings. Ms. Goode in her letter advised the plaintiff solicitors that the procedures to be adopted by the defendant company would comply with the provisions of natural justice and fair procedures and asserted that the Companies procedures were in line with the Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures S.I. No 146 of 2000.

It is worth noting in this judgment that the plaintiff appears to have signed a contract of employment which is the first exhibit to the affidavit of Ms. Orla Goode dated 11th October, 2007 even though the court accepts that the plaintiff did not appear to recollect that he had signed such a contract and in any event had not been in a position to furnish the same to his solicitors in advance of the application for the interim injunction...

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