Irish Supreme Court holds man has legal standing to challenge constitutionality of WRC procedures

The Irish Supreme Court has held that a man who is challenging the constitutionality of the procedures of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has the legal standing to bring the case.

Tomasz Zalewski is challenging the constitutional validity of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 which established the WRC and its procedures. Mr Zalewski argues that the Act is unconstitutional on a number of grounds, including that there is no penalty for giving false evidence, hearings are held in private and that adjudication officers are not required to have any legal qualification or experience. Mr Zalewski is also challenging the Unfair Dismissal Act 1977.

Mr Zalewski brought a claim of unfair dismissal and non-payment of wages to the WRC against his former employer, Buywise Discount Store. He submitted that the hearing was adjourned after only ten minutes and no opportunity for oral evidence or cross-examination was given. The adjudicator then issued a decision in the case despite the fact that it had been adjourned.

Mr Zalewski sought to bring judicial review proceedings to review the decision of the WRC. The WRC agreed that there had been an administrative error and that the adjudication officer’s decision should have been filed as “adjourned to further hearing” and not as a “decision to issue”. Mr Zalewski claims that despite the decision that the case was to be sent back to the WRC for rehearing by a different adjudication officer, it should be subject to constitutional challenge.

The High Court ruled that because the WRC had conceded the decision must be quashed, Mr Zalewski had no legal standing to pursue the constitutional challenge. This was overturned by the Supreme Court. The Court found that a single breach of fair procedures was not sufficient to allow standing to bring the challenge. However, it was clear to the Court, that this challenge to the unconstitutionality of the statutory scheme was independent of anything permitted by the statutes in questions, which an individual adjudication officer might or might not do. 

Click here for the judgment.



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