Dentist awarded €15,000 over unfair dismissal from practice run by ex-FG election candidate

Dr Min Li says dismissal from job linked to refusal to sign contract for less money than agreed when visa secured

A dental practice run by an ex-Fine Gael election candidate and his wife has been ordered to pay a former employee more than €15,000 for unfair dismissal and illegal pay deductions after she made a protected disclosure, in what is believed to be a legal first.

It comes after company director Jagannadha Muttumula, who ran for a county council seat in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s constituency in the 2019 local elections, denied that he “forged” his employee’s signature on a work permit application, which stated a higher rate of pay.

Dr Min Li, a dentist, had accused Mr Muttumula and his wife, Dr Hima Bindu Meda, directors of The Square Dental Services Ltd, of sacking her as a penalty for refusing to sign a contract for €9,000 less than the firm agreed with the Department of Enterprise when it secured her visa.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld her complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act, in what is believed to be a legal first as it ruled that the firm had penalised her for making a protected disclosure under the Employment Permits Act 2006 with the dismissal.


Dr Min said she agreed to come to Ireland to work for the company, but only under the Critical Skills Work Permit Scheme as the five-year wait for residency under the ordinary work permit scheme was a “deal breaker” for her.

Although she had initially agreed to work for a €55,000 salary, and signed a contract to that effect, she said the Department of Enterprise refused to issue a visa to a dentist under the critical skills programme until her proposed salary was increased to €64,000 for a standard 39-hour week.

Dr Min, a Canadian national, said she was in Taiwan at the time Mr Muttumula claims she signed a contract for the €64,000 annual salary for a standard 39-hour week the department required to issue the critical skills permit.

“If I didn’t have a contract matching the critical skills visa I would be working in Ireland illegally,” she said, adding that she refused a proposal from Mr Muttumula that she would “work extra days” the following month to “make up” for the higher pay.

Dr Min said she was paid this salary on a pro-rata basis when she started work at the clinic on October 18th, 2021, but that despite asking to see the revised contract her employer had sent the department with the new rate of pay, it was never provided.

She said that on November 3rd, 2021, around a fortnight into her employment, Mr Muttumula then presented her with a contract under which she would earn €55,000 for a 39-hour week.

Cross-examining Dr Min, the company’s representative, HR consultant Marius Marosan, said there was a conflict of evidence in the case, as the company had possession of two contracts signed by the complainant.

“I never signed this one ... I swear I never signed it. I’ve never even seen it,” Dr Min said when one was put before her.

Putting some pages before the adjudicating officer, Dr Min said: “If you see the signature, if you look at the signatures, they’re identical. See? Identical.”

“She’s saying this signature is doctored,” WRC adjudicating officer Breiffní O’Neill said. “She’s saying she never signed the €64,000 one,” he added.

Mr Muttumula said the complainant had been dismissed during her three-month probationary period, stating that her refusal to sign the contract for reduced pay was only one issue. He said Dr Min was underperforming, taking longer than expected to see patients, and that other staff at the practice were “not happy” to work with her.

“I put it to you that this contract was not sent to her and that you forged the signature sent to the department,” said the adjudicating officer he questioned Mr Muttumula, who was the only witness for the respondent company.

“No, I didn’t forge that signature,” Mr Muttumula said.

In his decision, Mr O’Neill noted that Dr Min was sacked two days after she refused to sign a new contract agreeing to be paid less than the skills visa programme required, and that there was “no evidence” of any interpersonal difficulties or underperformance as the employer had claimed.

“I find that the complainant’s employment was terminated as a result of her having made a protected disclosure in her email of 31st October 2021 in relation to the attempt by the respondent to alter the conditions of the work permit, which constitutes an offence,” Mr O’Neill wrote, ruling the dismissal unfair and awarding €14,378.

Mr O’Neill awarded a further €1,000 for “illegal” deductions from Dr Min’s wages over two months to cover the visa fee.