A legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Workplace Relations Commission is set to proceed after the Supreme Court ruled today that a claimant was entitled to take the case.
The Applicant in the case, Tomasz Zalweski, argues that the procedures of the WRC deprive claimants of natural and constitutional justice for reasons including the fact that Adjudication Officers do not have to be legally qualified, that evidence is not taken under oath, and that there is no penalty for giving false evidence.
Today he won the right to take the constitutional challenge back to the High Court - though the Supreme Court did not adjudicate on the substantive claims in his case.
Mr. Zalewski took his case against WRC Adjudication Officer Rosaleen Glackin, the Workplace Relations Commission, Ireland and the Attorney General.
In April 2016, Mr. Zalewski was dismissed by his employer Buywise Discount Store Limited, who were a notice party to today's Supreme Court proceedings.
He took an unfair dismissal case and a payment of wages claim to the WRC, where the first hearing took place on 26th October 2016 before Adjudication Officer Rosaleen Glackin.
While Ms. Glackin accepted written submissions and documentation, she did not hear evidence, and the case was adjourned as a witness for the employer was not available.
On 13th December 2016, when the case was due to resume, Ms. Glackin told Mr. Zalewski and his lawyers that she had already issued her decision dismissing his claims the previous week, and that the hearing that morning had been scheduled in error.
Mr. Zalewski's lawyers challenged this decision - as well as the constitutional basis underpinning the WRC and the fairness of its procedures.
The WRC subsequently admitted that the Adjudication Officer had misfiled the claim as "decision to issue" rather than "adjourned for further hearing" - and then proceeded to issue her ruling.
The WRC described this as an "adminstrative error on the part of the Adjudication Officer" which was "sincerely regretted".
The WRC said it would annul the previous adjudication, offered a new hearing before a different AO, and agreed to pay Mr. Zalewski's costs.
However, it argued that as this was an adequate remedy, Mr. Zalewski should not now be entitled to continue his challenge to the constitutionality of the WRC.
The High Court accepted the WRC's argument, but Mr. Zalewski appealed that ruling.
Today the Supreme Court overruled the High Court decision, and found that Mr. Zalewski had the legal standing to proceed with his constitutional challenge.
The Supreme Court judgement notes that Mr. Zalewski argued that the procedures of the WRC constitute the administration of justice - so he was entitled to have his claims heard by a court.
He claimed there had been a lack of fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice in relation to how claims were determined, the manner of the appointment of Adjudication Officers, the fact that cases are heard in private, and the way evidence was taken.
He pointed to the fact that there was no obligation for Adjudication Officers to have a legal qualification, there was no provision for evidence to be taken on oath, and he highlighted the absence of penalties if untrue evidence were given.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Zalewski also noted that the WRC appeals process provides for appeals to a body (the Labour Court) which also does not require persons to be legally qualified.
The Supreme Court concluded that Mr. Zalewski did have legal standing to pursue his constitutional challenge, and the case will be sent back to the High Court for hearing.
However, Ms. Justice Mary Finlay-Geoghegan stressed that today's decision only established Mr. Zalewski's status or qualification to pursue his constitutional challenge - but did not determine the arguments which the appellant was entitled to pursue in that challenge.
The Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation, which oversees the WRC, said that while it does not comment on individual cases, the wider implications of today's Supreme Court judgment will be fully considered.