Former Irish fintech executive files €100,000 wrongful dismissal lawsuit

A former executive of a listed Irish fintech company has filed a claim for lost profits of over €100,000 in redress for an alleged unfair dismissal without reason by the company last September.

Homas Hackett says he was promised a “substantial block of shares” when he was poached to join tech entrepreneur Maurice Healy’s Glantus as a start-up – but was denied that stake, being fired before he could take over .

He has brought statutory complaints against his former employer under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 and the Organization of Working Time Act 1997.

His former employer insists that the WRC has no jurisdiction to hear a complaint from Mr Hackett under the 1977 Act, arguing that he worked less than the required full year, which the complainant disputes.

At a hearing yesterday afternoon at the Workplace Relations Commission’s headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Mr Hackett’s lawyer said the shareholding is still being pursued in the High Court – but that his client is seeking compensation for a year’s lost profits.

He said Mr Hackett’s gross annual salary before his sacking was €100,000, plus expenses of €500 a month.

Pádraig Lyons BL, acting for the complainant on behalf of Byrne Wallace Lawyers, said that 10 days before the company’s IPO in May 2021, his client received a call from its CEO, Maurice Healy, telling him that ” a Error” in the Appellant’s stock warrant.

He said his client rejected the proposal and Mr. Healy replied, “You’ve only been with the company eight months and you don’t deserve to have your stock options vest at the IPO.”

Mr Hackett said it would be unfair of him to wait for a later period of suspension to expire, Mr Lyons told the court, but Mr Healy went on to tell him that if the employer did not agree “would do what is necessary to take action to.” ensure that this happens”.

Mr Lyons added that in exchange for agreeing to the suspension period, his client had received a promise from his employer “where his contract could not be terminated without six months’ notice”.

After Mr. Hackett relocated to his hometown of Boston, Mr. Healy said the complainant should transfer his employment to Glantus’ US arm, the attorney said.

Mr Lyons said his client was then presented with an “at will” employment contract on 23 August 2021 and when he raised issues with it – including the six-month notice period – there was “radio silence” from the company’s HR manager.

“What happens then is that on September 9, 2021 [the HR officer] calls Mr. Hackett and fires him. No reason, no warning, nothing,” Lyons said.

He said his client later received a letter that said the company had “evaluated, monitored and assessed” Mr. Hackett’s performance and “found his skills unsuitable.”

“Mr. Hackett knew nothing about it and had no opportunity whatsoever to contribute,” he said.

There was extensive legal controversy over the question of whether Mr. Hackett’s employment had lasted a full year.

Lorna Lynch SC, acting on behalf of the defendant for A&L Goodbody, indicated that Mr. Hackett’s original employment contract began on October 1, 2020 but was then backdated by the company to Saturday September 26 of the same year – which was September 28 Made September 2020 his first day.

The company’s position was that the complainant had been terminated on September 9, 2021 and instead his termination was paid, meaning that he had been with the company for less than a year and therefore could not benefit from the Unfair Dismissal Act.

She added that Mr. Hackett had received full payment for six months’ salary at the time.

Mr Lyons claimed his client had worked for the company since September 15, 2020, when his client attended a virtual strategy meeting, after which he worked “extensively” for the remainder of the month.

Mr. Lyons argued that since Mr. Hackett was contractually entitled to six months’ notice and his employer had elected a replacement payment, the correct termination date was the September 29 payment date when the payment was made.

“Even if it is accepted that Mr. Hackett’s employment on March 26 [of September 2020]payment was made on the 29th [September 2021] — that’s a year later,” he said.

Ms Lynch said the complainant shortly thereafter requested reimbursement of wages and expenses when his contract was backdated, but did not request reimbursement until mid-September 2020.

Both sides cited the UK Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Société Générale v Geys as a precedent – with Ms Lynch arguing that the court gave more weight to the notification itself than the date of payment.

Mr Lyons further argued that Section 13 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 voids any contract term which “purports to exclude or limit the application of the Act”.

“Section 13 means that if an employer attempts to use notice to bar him from the law, it is void,” he said.

However, he admitted that this was a “difficult” point as there was no direct precedent and he was not aware of any previous occasion on which the argument had been made.

“Mr Lyons seems to be saying that a pay in lieu of termination clause is fine, but if it’s put in place for almost a year it becomes invalid from the start… Perhaps there’s a reason the argument has never been made – that is certainly not the case for that,” Ms Lynch said.

Decision Officer Breiffni O’Neill adjourned the matter until November. Former Irish fintech executive files €100,000 wrongful dismissal lawsuit

Fry Electronics Team

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