a) THE SRENGHTSOF THE EMPLOYER'S CASE ÃÂÃÂ· Ms. Keane was made aware of the fact that a file recording her poor punctuality and attendance had been started and she was later reminded of the fact that this file was being kept. She also had complaints from parents about her teaching performance.
ÃÂÃÂ· Ms Keane's lifestyle outside of work and the manner in which she became pregnant go against the ethos of this school. In the ASTI manual it states that, "The Board might be moved to act in a way where a teachers performance and behaviour, over along period, has been consistently unsatisfactory, and/or undermines the ethos of the school". This is vital to the employers' case as it gives them the power to act after events that go against the ethos of the school.
ÃÂÃÂ· Management have also further followed regulations as regards a follow up to this behaviour, "All constructive help and advice should be given to the teacher, to help him/her improve before any such final move should be contemplated".
The employers can claim to have fulfilled their role in this regard. The Regional Supervisor came and spoke with Ms. Keane and presented to her the options of adoption or ending the relationship as a means to keeping her job. These options were rejected and she was then given the choice of resignation or dismissal. The employers stated what the consequences of her actions would be and this was ignored, so strengthening the employers' case.
ÃÂÃÂ· Ms Keane could not claim discrimination against her because of her pregnancy, as the problem first arose as a result of the type of relationship she was having and the pregnancy "Merely confirmed the nature of the relationship". (Flynn v Power, 1985) Warnings had been administered prior to this confirmation of pregnancy.
ÃÂÃÂ· Ms Keane must also have been aware that her controversial private life could result in complaints against her. As a teacher in a rural catholic school getting pregnant by a married man was not the best example to set, where public knowledge of her actions was likely to lead to people questioning her suitability for her role as a teacher in this school THE WEAKNESSES OF THE EMPLOYER'S CASE ÃÂÃÂ· Management did not follow the procedures set out in the ASTI manual as regards terminating a permanent contract. She was dismissed in mid term where as this should only happen at the end of one of the school terms. Ms Keane did not receive the required three months written notice. She should also have been given written notice from the principal of his/her intention to give notice one month prior to the termination of the contact. This did not occour. Also Ms Keane was only informed of the fact that she could appeal to the Mother Superior of the Order after contacting the ASTI, where as she should have been made aware of this on dismissal (ASTI Manual 1996) These discrepancies on behalf of the employers weakens their case.
ÃÂÃÂ· Ms. Keane was never issued with written warnings as regards her behaviour and her employers should have done this. They only issued verbal warnings.
ÃÂÃÂ· The employers failed to follow procedures for a fair dismissal, by not implementing all the Rules of Natural Justice prior to the dismissal. This breach looks unfavourably on the employer.
ÃÂÃÂ· The union seem to be fully behind Ms Keane and are pursuing the matter, which may be a source of concern to her employers, especially as if the case were to go to the EAT, where if it ruled in Ms Keanes favour, the outcome would be legally binding.
ÃÂÃÂ· The school also ignored procedure, as Ms Keane was entitled to appear before the Board or be represented by the School Steward in order to have her views aired before a decision was even contemplated. This didn't occour and again reflects badly on the employer.
b) OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO THE REGIONAL SUPERVISOR ÃÂÃÂ· The supervisor is worried about the possible publicity that could result from this case and she is also worried about the threat of industrial action. There is a possibility of the case going to the Rights Commissioner, which would mean no publicity as this hearing is in private. This option may suit but if the outcome hear is unfavourable and rejected the case must go to the EAT where the case is public and the outcome legally binding.
ÃÂÃÂ· She could agree to have the meeting that was requested by the ASTI, but previously rejected, and discuss the case and try to reach an agreement that would reduce publicity. The Mother Superior could also be brought into the discussions ÃÂÃÂ· Ms Keane could be offered a redundancy package in order to maintain the schools decision and also prevent further action on her behalf. Alternatively Ms Keane could be offered a lump sum, but this might only help her case as this could be seen as a bribe.
In accordance with the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977- 1993 three other options available to solve the problem are ÃÂÃÂ· Reinstatement-Ms Keane could be given back her job with full compensation for loss of pay. But this option will only cause the same problems all over again.
ÃÂÃÂ· Re-engagement-Ms Keane could be offered alternative work, but it could be for less pay and may not utilise her skills, as she would like, as she is a qualified teacher.
ÃÂÃÂ· Financial Compensation-Ms Keane is entitled to a maximum of two years pay, but must show evidence of job seeking, and the payment is also reduced in accordance how much her conduct contributed to the dismissal. This may be a reasonable option to both parties.
The Regional Supervisor is worried about the threat of industrial action and this is quite a legitimate concern with this action is a definite possibility as a result of the non compliance of the employers with regulations as regards dismissal and their unwillingness to meet with the ASTI when requested. Therefore it would be advisable for the Regional Supervisor to end the situation and solve the problem in one of the ways outlined.
c) EFFECT OF TREATY AND ACT ON THE CASE The Treaty of Amsterdam contains an article that allows the Council to take action in regard to discrimination, "based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation".
ÃÂÃÂ· Section 4.20 contains a declaration which has a political rather than legal force which states that the Union will respect the status of churches and philosophical and non-confessional organisations under the national law of their respective member states. Here the national law of the country is the governing factor in decisions about various rules or aspects of these organisations. So as Ms Keane went against the ethos of the school and they see it as grounds for dismissal, the school will feel it is entitled to dismiss her.
The Employment Equality Act 1998 was established in relation to matters of discrimination.
ÃÂÃÂ· In this act it states that discrimination by educational institutions run by religious bodies are exempt from the usual legal procedures in this area when the institution takes action to prevent an employee from undermining their ethos. Therefore under this act the schools actions are acceptable and covered by this exemption.
These two legislative pieces combine to enhance the case of the school against Ms Keane as National Law in the Amsterdam Treaty and the undermining of the schools ethos through the Employment Equality Act favour their case.