Donegal County Council managers who accused the county lifeguard supervisor of failing to get “life-or-death” safety inspections on ring buoys done only had “hearsay” to back up their allegations against her.
RTE News reports the finding was made as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) upheld Lisa Dalton’s statutory challenge to her sacking in November 2021 on the grounds of alleged “underperformance” in a decision published this morning.
A senior council engineer, Joe McCarron, had said the council had concerns that inspections were not appearing in an app database and that trust had “broken down” between Ms Dalton and her bosses.
He also alleged that beach lifeguards under Ms Dalton’s supervision had been given the message that ring-buoy inspections “didn’t matter” and the job of recording their condition in a phone app “wasn’t to be done”.
“It certainly did not come from me,” Ms Dalton said.
At a hearing last month, the council’s legal representative, Keith Irvine of the Local Government Management Agency, admitted he could not produce either the complainant’s line manager, county water safety officer David Friel, or any of the officials who had been directly involved in the process of sacking the complainant to give evidence.
The council had initially argued that Ms Dalton had been sacked at the conclusion of what it called a “probation review period” between April 2021 and November 2021 following an earlier six-month extension to probation, claiming she had no right to take a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act.
In her decision, the WRC adjudicator Ms Emilie Daly wrote that Mr McCarron was relying on “hearsay” from Ms Dalton’s line manager, county water safety officer David Friel when he contradicted Ms Dalton on the ringbuoy inspections, with the evidence being: “what the complainant’s line manager told him as opposed to his experiencing the complainant’s work performance directly”.
“As the employer is required to prove that her poor work performance contributed to her dismissal, that evidence should be available to be cross examined, and it is not,” Ms Daly wrote. She added that she was “unable to find [Ms Dalton] contributed to the dismissal by her conduct”.
Upholding her complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, Ms Daly ordered Donegal County Council to pay €10,000.
The complainant had been seeking redress for in excess of €30,000 in lost earnings, but Ms Daly wrote that Ms Dalton had failed to meet her obligation to mitigate her losses.
Noting Ms Dalton’s argument that she was looking for a job which suited her and her family and to further her career, Ms Daly wrote that nine job applications in 2022 was “not adequate”, particularly “when the country is in near full employment and when there are work vacancies even in economically disadvantaged counties”.
Read the full, indepth, report on www.rte.ie