Naas woman awarded €45,000 against Lily O’Brien’s

A Naas woman has been awarded €45,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal against Newbridge chocolatier Lily O’Brien’s.

A Naas woman has been awarded €45,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal against Newbridge chocolatier Lily O’Brien’s.

The woman, Ursula Hedderman whose address is listed as 79 Aylmer Park, Naas, took a case against Lily’s Ltd, the company behind the Lily O’Brien’s Chocolates, of the Green Road, Newbridge. She appealed a previous ruling by a Rights Commissioner which had awarded her €30,000 less.

Ms. Hedderman had worked there since September 1997 and was well regarded by her employers, the official report of the Tribunal which was released last week states. The case was heard on March 7, 2012.

On February 18, 2009 Ms Hedderman was asked, together with two other supervisors, to attend a meeting with management. At the meeting, the purpose of which she had not been informed of in advance, she was told that due to the company’s restructuring programme she was being made redundant.

The company explained to the Tribunal that it had suffered financially in recent years and that there had been a loss of €472,117.00 in 2008.  

They felt that amongst other cost-cutting measures including a 10% cut in salaries for management, redundancies would have to be implemented.

In all, 10 employees were made redundant, they explained, which allowed them to return to a break-even position in more recent years.

At the meeting where she was told this, Ms. Hedderman was given a letter confirming her redundancy.

The report states that “she was instantly dismissed and let go in an appalling manner”.

Ms. Hedderman had contended that she could have carried out any form of work assigned to her in the company and she offered ideas on ways the company could make savings. She had even suggested working a four day week. She felt she was “robbed of her dignity and expectation”. She received a favourable reference from the company. Despite this she only managed to secure 10 weeks since leaving and has since returned to college. In an initial hearing, the Rights Commissioner awarded Ms Hedderman €15,000, although she refused to accept this. She wanted to be reinstated in her position.

The company told the tribunal that work is very seasonal and that Ms. Hedderman’s job was redistributed to a packing manager and team leaders.

They believed that her job no longer existed and therefore she could not be reinstated. Reinstating her “would necessitate further redundancies in the company,” they argued. However the company did accept that it did not follow correct procedure when making her redundant. They said they had “high regard for” Ms. Hedderman and accepted the findings of the original hearing.

Having considered the views of both sides, the Tribunal did not consider that reinstating Ms. Hedderman to her previous position would be an appropriate remedy. However, the Tribunal was satisfied that she was unfairly dismissed and awarded her €45,000.