News from the courts – payouts for “Change to working hours” & “Reasonable Response Test”

Fundamental changes ‘foisted’ on employee, €30,000 awarded

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has awarded €30,000 to an employee, who was dismissed after he declined to accept new working hours without his agreement to the change having first been secured.

The decision to alter the working hours of the employee, Patrick Holden, occurred after his employer, Holden Plant Rentals, secured what was described as a “significant new contract”.

The Tribunal’s opinion was that “the claimant was dismissed after he objected to a fundamental change in his terms of employment being foisted on him. The employer’s legitimate need to change work practices to enable it to meet the specific requirements of a new client did not entitle it to arbitrarily change the claimant’s terms of employment.”

Dismissal for writing comments about colleague on milk carton

Connaught Gold Co-op has been ordered by the Employment Appeals Tribunal to pay €25,000 to a worker, who was dismissed for allegedly writing a comment about a fellow employee on the top of a carton of milk.

The carton was part of a pack then sent out to an agent for distribution. The comment, made about another employee, was considered to have ‘dark undertones’. The respondent was concerned about possible damage to its good name. The claimant, Conor Rafter, denied writing the words in question.

According to the Tribunal: “There was no danger to life and limb therein, nor do we accept that the Respondent’s name, reputation or product would have been as negatively impacted as suggested by the Respondent.”

“The Claimant had a strong employment history with the Respondent. He had an unblemished record and it would appear that, contrary to the evidence furnished at the hearing, no consideration was given to these matters, in either the initial investigation, or the appeal hearing.”


The Tribunal stressed that its role was not to establish an objective standard, but to ask whether the decision to dismiss came within the ‘band of reasonable responses’ an employer might adopt, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case.

In applying the test, the nature and extent of the enquiry carried out by the employer, prior to the decision to dismiss, is taken into account.

  • Did the employer believe that the employee was guilty of misconduct?
  • If so, did it have reasonable grounds to sustain that belief?
  • If so, was the penalty of dismissal proportionate the alleged misconduct?