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Outreach worker at Waterford ex-offenders charity 'suspended'

An outreach worker at a charity for criminal offenders in Waterford was “suspended” after making a protected disclosure about the charity’s practices, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has heard.The allegation was made by a solicitor for Michael McGagh, who has brought a claim for an alleged loss of earnings of €61,795 which was over a period of over 20 months from January 2020 to July 2021.Mr McGagh, 57, previously told the WRC about “inappropriate practices” at The U-Casadh Project, having been asked to sign another person’s signature for expenses, and later hearing that he was alleged to have been selling cocaine to “vulnerable service users” at a nightclub in Waterford City.

Charity to step down

Last March, the registered charity, based in Ferrybank, told staff it would be winding down later this year.Yesterday’s hearing heard that two letters recently sent to Mr McGagh from U-Casadh — which means “U-turn” — offered “conflicting” positions on his employment status.In the first, Neil Rafter said solicitors for U-Casadh referenced his client being “suspended” but, when queried, a second letter was produced on the charity’s behalf stating that the first intended to say Mr McGagh was not in work during the time period referenced.Mr Rafter said the term “suspension” carried a serious implication.“I don’t think even in the course of ordinary language one would use ‘suspension’ as used in this letter,” said Mr Rafter. “I think the only reading one would have on the first letter is that he was suspended.”A second letter tried to “walk back” on this position, he said, adding U-Casadh’s decision to not give evidence meant “there’s no one stand over” an explanation for the contrasting claims.Responding for U-Casadh, Lisa Conroy of Peninsula HR said the original letter “misspoke” in relation to Mr McGagh’s employment status and pointed to submissions made by the charity for the WRC.These contended there was confusion after Mr McGagh, a former garda, allegedly sought 13 months off work following an operation, as the document showed him seeking leave between October 17, 2019, and November 30, 2020. Mr Rafter said this was a “typographical error” and it should have read “2019”.

Fitness to work interview

A fitness-to-work interview was conducted when Mr McGagh returned to work in December 2019 but meetings to discuss his future fell through. However, he returned to work in July 2021.Ms Conroy contended that Mr McGagh’s claim for loss of wages was only relevant from January to May 2020, based on when the case was taken.

Adjudicator Anne McElduff said she found it “unsatisfactory” that U-Casadh was not addressing claims at the hearing.

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The charity was represented by one sitting director, Joe Stokes, but the WRC heard others could not attend due to illness.

“Leaving me to rely on the submissions is a little bit unsatisfactory when I can’t deal with the respondent [U-Casadh] in relation to this matter,” Ms McElduff said.She said an investigation by an external company confirmed that Mr McGagh was an employee of the company. She said she would release a decision in due course.

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