€5,400 for dismissal in horseplay incident

A tribunal has awarded €5,400 to a worker who was unfairly dismissed after being involved in a horseplay incident in which he made a reflex reaction to being struck in the groin area with a towel.

His reaction was not made public but in a rare move, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ordered that Michael Last be reinstated in his job with Suir Pharma Ireland Ltd.

In its ruling, the EAT stated that Mr Last “was blatantly treated in an unfair fashion” when he was dismissed in October 2014.

The tribunal stated that it was satisfied that a level of horseplay was tolerated in the workplace and had, on at least one occasion, been characterised as “high spirits” by Suir Pharma Ireland Ltd.

The tribunal stated that it suspected that other factors were at play in the decision to dismiss Mr Last. It stated that no reasonable employer would have arrived at the conclusions the firm arrived at, nor would a reasonable employer have felt it necessary to treat Mr Last in the manner in which he was treated.

The EAT stated that for the firm to act as it did was equally unfair to ‘Mr M’ — the other party to the horseplay incident — “as he has clearly been left to feel considerable guilt and responsibility” around Mr Last’s dismissal.

The tribunal stated it was impressed by the manner in which Mr M presented before the tribunal hearing.

The Clonmel firm went into liquidation on June 13 and the liquidator remains in place. The liquidation resulted in the loss of 134 jobs.

The EAT stated that as a result of the liquidation, reinstatement is the only remedy in the case that has the possibility of providing Mr Last with a level of redress as envisaged by unfair dismissal legislation.

The EAT said Mr Last is entitled to apply for payment of the €5,400 through the Insolvency Payments Scheme.


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