A sales executive has been awarded over €329,000 for unfair dismissal after being sacked without a formal warning over bullying allegations.

The award is understood to be the largest ever made by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), and more than double the previous record award.

Complaints were submitted in March 2021 by the former sales executive under the Unfair Dismissals Act and the Payment of Wages Act against the company. The man had worked for the firm since December 2016 and was promoted in 2019 but was dismissed five months later on the grounds of serious misconduct after he was accused of bullying.

Neither the complainant nor the firm have been named by the adjudicating officer in the case. The adjudicator found that the parties had “an expectation that they would not be named when the case commenced” as its first hearing date preceded the ruling of the Supreme Court in the Zalewski case.

The behaviour in question had taken place during Ramadan, which the claimant was observing, and comments by the WRC adjudicator suggested that a reasonable employer would have tried to understand if the employee’s observance of Ramadan was causing difficulty for him.

The sacked employee said the disciplinary process failed to take into account his relationship with one of the two complainants and that “Robust and coarse language was part of the workplace culture.” Among other points relating to the investigation into his behaviour and its findings, the man said the bullying allegations were “vague and implausible as examples of bullying and harassment” and that a decision about his dismissal “had been made well in advance of his ultimate dismissal.”

In his decision, the adjudicating officer Breiffni O’Neill wrote, “The complainant had been out of work from September 17, 2019, to July 17, 2021, meaning the figure for overall loss submitted, €438,932, was in excess of 104 weeks’ pay, the maximum compensation the WRC could award”.

Mr O’Neill took the view that it would have been “extremely difficult” to find a new job and that he was not surprised it took him 22 months. “I recognise that the complainant earned a very substantial remuneration package, that the respondent operates in a niche sector in a city in a very small country where both employers and recruitment agencies are easily known to one another,” he wrote.

He said there was an “obvious reluctance” among prospective employers to offer the complainant “any position, let alone a well-paid one” when made aware of the reasons for the termination of his employment “either through word of mouth or when informed at interview”. Mr O’Neill made an award for 75pc of the total financial loss suffered by the complainant, €329,199.

NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email info@nfg.ie.