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Employee told to keep working amid heart-attack symptoms awarded €35,000 after dismissal

An ‘indifferent’ employer told a senior technician to keep working after the worker told him that he was experiencing chest pain and may be having a heart attack.

The following day on June 27, 2017, the worker continued to feel unwell and was rushed to hospital where it was confirmed by medics that he had in fact suffered a heart attack.

The man’s employer came to visit the man while he was in hospital and told him that his job was secure.

However, just over four weeks after the man was admitted to hospital, the man’s employer served redundancy notice on him on July 28 and he was subsequently replaced at his workplace after having his employment terminated on August 11, 2017.

The worker was seriously ill and had stents inserted and was required to undergo an intensive rehabilitation after having been hospitalised and this continued until January 2018.

The man had worked for the business since April 2013 and at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC Adjudication Officer Pat Brady has ordered the employer to pay the man €35,000 after finding that he suffered a discriminatory dismissal under the Employment Equality Acts.

Mr Brady found that the worker was suffering with a disability at the time of his dismissal and he stated that the decision to dismiss the worker on discriminatory grounds “was a particularly insensitive act in the circumstances”.

He said: “It is of course permitted to fairly terminate employment on the basis of ‘capacity’; but not after the passage of a mere few weeks, or without a proper and fair procedure, and not under the ‘cloak of redundancy’.”

Mr Brady said that there is no credible alternative explanation for the dismissal other than that the employer decided in view of the employee’s illness, and likely extended rehabilitation process to terminate his employment.

Mr Brady found that at no stage before or after the worker suffered a heart attack was there any reference to the possibility of redundancy, nor was there any discussions of the options normally associated with redundancy, selection processes or alternatives.

Mr Brady stated that no redundancy payment was made to the man and it appears that there were no other redundancies.

The worker had not lodged his claim until April 2018 and explaining the delay, a medical cert was furnished to the effect that the worker was "medically unfit to contemplate any form of litigation" and that he had not been "in a fit state of mind due to emotional upset and anxiety to contemplate proceedings in the six-seven months following his heart attack”.

The employer did not attend the hearing and a representative wrote to the WRC following the hearing in the case to state that the company had ceased trading in 2017.