Solicitor takes case against WRC over handling of her unfair dismissal case

A solicitor who says she was sacked by leading law firm Arthur Cox after criticising a senior colleague has issued proceedings against the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over the handling of her unfair dismissal case.

Ammi Burke alleges she was fired in November 2019 over her criticism of a partner at the firm after she was left working until 2am while colleagues were out socialising.

But her unfair dismissal case was aborted by adjudication officer Marie Flynn last May following a significant Supreme Court ruling affecting WRC procedures. 

Ms Flynn decided there would have to be a new hearing and excused herself.

Ms Burke has issued High Court proceedings aimed at restarting the case from the point at which it was halted and quashing Ms Flynn’s decision to excuse herself. 

The solicitor, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, also wants an order compelling Ms Flynn to direct Arthur Cox to disclose emails she says support her case.

On Monday Mr Justice Anthony Barr gave Ms Burke leave to bring judicial review proceedings against Ms Flynn and the WRC.

Ms Burke told the court how eight months before her dismissal she was on one side of a finance deal while a partner, Kevin Lynch, was on the other side. 

The deal was being finalised on March 29, 2019, and she was in the office from 8am until 2am the next day.

Ms Burke said there were “serious delays in communication” with the partner and the other side of the deal because there was a leaving party that night for a senior associate.

She took this up with Mr Lynch a few days later. 

“I said respectfully to the partner that I didn’t think it was acceptable that I be left in the office until 2am because his team was socialising,” Ms Burke told the court.

“The position of Arthur Cox is that conversation with that partner warranted my dismissal.”

Ms Burke told how at a WRC hearing last October Mr Lynch gave evidence the deal closed around 10.30pm or 11pm and denied any delays by his team.

She said Arthur Cox clarified to the adjudication officer last March the deal closed around 2am and that Mr Lynch had been mistaken.

Ms Burke said she asked Ms Flynn to direct the disclosure of emails from a six-hour period on the night of the deal but her requests were refused.

Last April the Supreme Court found the absence of a capacity for adjudication officers to require certain evidence on oath was inconsistent with the Constitution.

Ms Burke said due to conflicts in evidence the adjudication officer decided to abort her hearing and ruled it should be started afresh when a law is passed allowing evidence to be taken under oath. 

Ms Burke said the decision was wrong and her case should have been paused instead. 

In an affidavit she said the matter was “extremely urgent”.

She had been unable to find legal employment and the gap in her career was “extremely damaging”. 

She said a legal news website described her as “a Christian nutjob” while a former Arthur Cox employee claimed in a online video she was dismissed for “radical” Christian beliefs.

The reason given by Arthur Cox, where she worked for three-and-a-half years, was a “breakdown in relationships”.

Ms Burke was previously involved with three siblings in a case against NUI Galway after they were banned from student societies. They claimed they were discriminated against on the grounds of religion. The ban was lifted.

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