Workplace Relations Commission: Former hotel receptionist awarded €21k for unfair dismissal



Labour Court
Labour Court

A man who was dismissed via email and met by Gardai when he returned to work the following day has been awarded €21,050 in compensation for unfair dismissal and technical breaches of employment legislation. Finding that the man’s dismissal was procedurally fatally flawed, Adjudication Officer Michael McEntee said the actions of the complainant required a 25% reduction in the award in lieu of his contribution towards the dismissal.

Background

The complainant was employed as a Senior Hotel Receptionist at the respondent’s Boutique Hotel when he was dismissed via email on 8 June 2018. The following day he was met by Gardai at the reception desk. There was no investigation or disciplinary process involved in his dismissal, nor was he afforded the opportunity to appeal the decision.

In the Workplace Relations Commission, the former receptionist lodged a complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, together with complaints under the Employment Equality Act 1998, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997,

Unfair dismissal

Pursuant to Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, the Complainant submitted that he was denied all his rights to fair processes and procedures in what was in effect an arbitrary dismissal. The respondent Hotel said that the actions of the Complainant prior to his dismissal were unacceptable to any reasonable employer, and that he displayed “intimidatory behaviour” towards another member of staff, Ms XF, who was “left in a state of fear for her own personal safety”.

The Adjudication Officer said that on clear procedural grounds the complaint was well founded, that the dismissal was procedurally fatally flawed, and an unfair dismissal took place. He said, “the accepted ground rules as set out in SI 146 of 2000 – Statutory Code of Practice on Grievance & Disciplinary Procedures were not in evidence. The Complainant was effectively dismissed by means of an e-mail dated the 8th June 2018 and was confirmed by the interactions with the Gardai the following day at the reception desk. There was no investigation or disciplinary process and no appeal was afforded”.

Considering redress, the Adjudication Officer said he must make an award “just and equitable having regard to all the circumstances” pursuant to Section 7(1)(c). He also had regard to Section 7(2)(f) on the contribution of the Complainant to the situation, and Section 7(2)(c) on efforts made to mitigate the loss.

The Adjudication Officer did not consider reinstatement or re-engagement to be applicable in circumstances where the relationship between the parties had completely broken down.

The Adjudication officer considered an award of €27,000 to reflect approximately one year’s salary, but said “the actions and intimidatory behaviours of the Complainant” required a 25% reduction in lieu of contribution towards the dismissal. Accordingly, the Complainant was awarded €20,250 in regard to the unfair dismissal.

Equality complaint

Referring to Section 77 of the Employment Equality Act 1998, the Complainant submitted that his Romanian nationality was a big factor in his dismissal, that he had regularly been the subject of negative verbal comments regarding his nationality, and that the description of him provided to the Gardai by the hotel had been clearly racist.

The Respondent completely denied this complaint, stating that no discrimination or harassment on grounds of nationality had ever occurred.

The Adjudication Officer said that a lot of hearsay was referenced regarding this complaint, and that it did not achieve the required prima facie standard. As such, the Adjudication Officer set aside the complaint, finding it not well founded.

Working time and employment information complaints

Under Section 7 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, the complainant submitted that he had never been supplied with the formal details of his terms and conditions of employment. He also complained that he had never received proper Sunday work premiums and had never been given proper breaks contrary to Section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

The respondent said that any possible breach of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 was inadvertent and purely minor. The respondent also resolutely denied both complaints under Section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, stating that the complainant’s wage had incorporated a Sunday work element, and that he was always allowed to take work breaks – during which he was given gratis food from the hotel.

In regard to the complaint under section 7 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, the Adjudication Officer found a technical breach and awarded €250 in compensation. The Adjudication Officer also found technical breaches of section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, awarding €300 for the Sunday work premiums complaint and €250 for the work breaks complaint.

As such, a total of €21,050 in compensation was awarded to the complainant.

  • by Seosamh Gráinséir for Irish Legal News

© Irish Legal News Ltd 2019



Other judgments by Adjudication Officer Michael McEntee