€300,000 for Unfair Dismissal of Lecturer in Relocation Row

Key Learnings:

In this Case, leadership at the Respondent University summarily dismissed a senior academic over his failure to relocate and thereby ensure he had a ‘physical presence’ on campus.

The University suggested that email correspondence outlining the reasons for the alleged dismissal was in fact an attempt to force the Complainant’s hand into relocating before the commencement of the academic year.

This suggestion was condemned by the Adjudicator as an approach that lacked dignity, decency and reasonability.

This dispute once again highlights the risks of failing to afford Employees their statutory rights to fair treatment. Even in a situation where an Employer is frustrated by an Employee’s behaviour, no sanction should be confirmed before the Employee has had the full benefit of the rights and protections afforded by a disciplinary process that complies with the principles of natural justice and fair procedures.

The level of award also serves as a clear reminder of the serious financial consequences of losing an unfair dismissal claim.


The Complainant, a Professor of Economics, submitted that he was dismissed out of the blue, without cause, by email, by the University’s Director of Human Resources, and in the absence of the application of the Respondent University’s own internal procedures, fair procedures or natural justice and without being offered a right to appeal.

The Respondent denied the Complainant’s claim and submitted that the Complainant was dismissed because he had not relocated to within commuting distance of the University. The Respondent submitted that there was no issue with the Complainant’s performance and no issue with the Complainant’s conduct, that the only issue was his failure to relocate.

The Respondent acknowledged that it did not initiate a disciplinary process, in those circumstances, but maintained that the dismissal was fair, submitting that it was “appropriate and necessary”, “in the interests of the University and its students” and that the Complainant’s contribution to his dismissal was “100%.”

Summary of Complainant ’s Case

The Complainant outlined his educational background, that he had a Ph.D. and a M.Sc. He outlined that he had worked for 30 years in academia, that he had been a full professor at 28, head of department at 29, head of research at 30, that he had worked with Oxford University and with the United Nations.

He said that it was always his intention until he was fired to find a place to stay and live close to the University. He said that he was very happy to be appointed to the role, that the University had very good ambitions and that he saw a lot of opportunities for himself, within that.

He said that the Covid-19 crisis happened, and everyone had to contend with that, that things were very uncertain at that time.

He said that after the interview, he raised the issue about Covid, and that the response he received was very good, that the Respondent’s officers were “very flexible” and would keep everything “in review.”

He sought assistance from a professor working in the University, in relation to housing. The University was keen to attract top international talent and the Complainant noted that the Professor in situ had come from abroad and had been offered accommodation options by the University. The Complainant outlined that this was not his experience and that support of this kind had been non-existent.

He said that the University managed the situation with Covid very well and he emphasised “at no point in time was I treated differently to anybody else”, explaining that lots of Employees were working remotely/in a blended format during the Covid phase.

He said that he came to Ireland in June/July 2021, as soon as the first Covid restrictions eased. He said that he came frequently, that he was viewing houses which was not easy. He explained that he would make appointments with agents to view properties, sometimes only being told on the day, that the viewing was cancelled (having travelled from the Netherlands).

The Complainant outlined a meeting with the Head of the Department he was working in during which he outlined how he could teach in a blended format, that he would come for one week a month and do in person teaching; the rest of the courses he would do remotely online. He said he attended monthly department meetings. He said that most of the department were not residing in Cork and were using Teams to join the meetings online. He said they discussed the teaching obligations.

The Complainant said that in January 2022, he was on campus for accreditation. He said that at the end of July, he had a personal meeting with a fellow Professor who sympathised with his situation. She suggested to him that the staff manual set out that he had the right to ask for a reduction in his time. He said that this is what he subsequently did.

The Complainant submitted that this decision to ask for a reduction in time led to his dismissal which was decided “ad hoc” by the Director of HR who was “judge, jury and executioner.”

Summary of Respondent’s Case

The Respondent noted that the Complainant was recruited by the University at the time of Covid as a full Professor of Economics, which is a critical position. Economics is part of the College of Business and Law in UCC. The Respondent emphasised the leadership role that the position involved including leadership in the wider school, college and University.

The University stated that there were three elements to the role – teaching, research and contribution, and that they were equally important. The Respondent submitted that the teaching element was obvious, that research was dependent on the person’s own skills etc. and that the third element “contribution” was a very important part of leadership, that it was important to the students and their experience of college. He said that the role also involved being part of the senior management team (SMT) and that those elements require a physical presence.

The Respondent noted that the Complainant joined the University in early January 2021 while Covid restrictions remained in place. It was expected that the Complainant would be physically present for the next academic year – August/September 2021, but that date had drifted out.

The Respondent noted that the Complainant was due to relocate in January of 2022, but he made only a number of short visits to the University. It was noted that the Head of the College of Business and Law) had never met the Complainant in person.

By August 2022, twenty months into his employment, the Respondent noted the tone of communications whereby he sought agreement that he would deliver his workload on a blended basis/remote basis. The University did not accept this proposal and terminated the employment contract by summary dismissal.

The Respondent submitted that the decision was appropriate and necessary and in the interests of the University and its students. The Respondent further submitted that the Complainant’s contribution to his own dismissal was 100% as it was abundantly clear that his physical presence would be required to perform his duties under the employment contract.

Findings and Conclusions

The Adjudicator found that the dismissal of the Complainant was both procedurally and substantively unfair and did not fall within the “band of reasonableness” of potential disciplinary sanctions open to an Employer in circumstances where the Respondent has freely conceded that there were no issues whatsoever with the Complainant’s performance or conduct, i.e. there was no basis for initiating a disciplinary process, and it in fact, did not initiate a disciplinary process, in those circumstances.

The Adjudicator noted that the Respondent alleged that the Complainant had committed a fundamental breach of contract. However, prior to the email putatively dismissing him, there was no correspondence to the Complainant from the Respondent suggesting that he is breaching his contract and/or giving him an opportunity to remedy his position. The Adjudicator fully accepted the Complainant’s evidence that his dismissal came as a ‘bolt from the blue.’

The Adjudicator found it quite extraordinary, that on foot of an application to either reduce his teaching hours for the academic year 2022/2023 or to continue with a full workload but in a blended format – an application he was entitled to make, the Complainant received no response to his proposal. That remained the case at the date of the hearing.

The failure to provide an appeal was also fatal to the Respondent’s approach, in and of itself; and was in clear breach of the minimum requirements as set out in the WRC Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.

The Respondent sought to rely upon the catch-all provision of “other substantial grounds” in the Unfair Dismissals Act as the reason justifying the dismissal. It submitted that the Complainant committed a fundamental breach of his contract, which constituted “other substantial grounds.” The difficulty with that submission was that the Complainant would still have been entitled to the full benefit of a disciplinary process and the rights and protections afforded to him under it, none of which were provided to him.

The Adjudicator found that the Respondent advanced no ground upon which a finding against the Complainant would put his dismissal within the “band of reasonableness” as a potential sanction, especially in the absence of any warning or any process.


The Adjudicator found that the complaint of unfair dismissal was well-founded and directed the Respondent to pay the Complainant €300,000 which represented the maximum monetary jurisdiction under the Unfair Dismissals Acts.



Migrant Worker Awarded €143k After Enduring Sexual Harassment and Fear of Assault at Dublin Takeaway

Key learnings

The case involving Ms. Sharanjeet Kaur exposes the difficulties and vulnerabilities encountered by migrant workers, especially when it comes to the conflict between job promises and harsh reality. Ms. Kaur story serves as a reminder of how vital it is to preserve labour laws and safeguard each Employee’s rights and dignity at work. The Workplace Relations Commission’s (WRC) conclusions expose structural flaws in Bombay Bhappa Ltd., doing business as ‘Bombay House’, including violations of several labour regulations and discrimination against women in accordance with the Employment Equality Act. The significant compensation awarded to Ms. Kaur, emphasizes the severity of the mistreatment endured and highlights the Commission’s commitment to ensuring just outcomes for workers facing exploitation. This case serves as a reminder to Employers of the legal and ethical responsibilities towards their Employees, particularly those who may be more vulnerable due to their migrant status or other factors.


An Indian national and single mother of two young children found herself entangled in a web of promises and disappointments when she accepted a job offer as a chef in “Bombay House” in Skerries, Co. Dublin. lured by the prospect of a significant salary and free accommodation, she invested in a work permit facilitated by the Respondent’s Director, costing her family approximately €17,000. But when she arrived in Dublin in September 2021, she found herself living in a small apartment with seven other people, sharing a double bedroom with another Employee. Her employment ended unexpectedly on November 26, 2022, after starting on September 28, 2021. She then filed complaints under several employment acts, pointing out infractions of terms of employment, wage payments, wrongful dismissal, and equality in the workplace. This case highlights the vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers and the importance of upholding standards to protect their rights and dignity in the workplace.

Findings & Conclusions

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) upheld Ms. Sharanjeet Kaur’s complaint of discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment, citing a distressing catalogue of abuses she experienced during her employment. Adjudicator Elizabeth Spelman ruled in favour of Ms. Kaur, finding Bombay Bhappa Ltd, trading as ‘Bombay House’, in breach of multiple labour laws and gender discrimination under the Employment Equality Act. The company was ordered to pay Ms. Kaur a near-record €143,268 in compensation, including maximum awards for two years’ pay for discrimination and unfair dismissal, totalling €90,000, as well as €35,000 for rights breaches and €18,278 for various wage-related violations. The ruling underscored the severe nature of the mistreatment Ms. Kaur endured, highlighting systemic failures in the company’s treatment of its Employees.


In the adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission, in the factors of multiple complaints lodged by the Complainant under various sections of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the Unfair Dismissals Act 1997, the Minimum Notice & Terms of Employment Act 1973, the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the Employment Equality Act 1998, and the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 were found to be well-founded. The Respondent was ordered to compensate the Complainant for financial losses and breaches of statutory rights, amounting to a total award of €143,268. These rulings highlight the Commission’s commitment to upholding labour standards and ensuring just outcomes for aggrieved workers.