The manager of a Co Cork hotel yesterday denied sacking his leisure centre manager in a “knee-jerk homophobic reaction” on discovering his employee was running a sauna club in Shannon.
Ambassador Court Hotel, trading as Charleville Park Hotel, has been accused of unfairly dismissing Eamon Ryan, who managed the hotel’s leisure centre.
Mr Ryan, 44, a married father of one from Ballysimon, Co Limerick, acknowledged he was a director of a company running a sauna club but denied knowing his involvement in an “outside business” was a sackable offence.
Brendan Comerford, manager of the hotel, told an employment appeals tribunal hearing in Limerick the company was happy with Mr Ryan’s performance.
Mr Comerford said he received an anonymous phone message saying Mr Ryan was involved in running another business.
Mr Comerford said the company had an agreement with Mr Ryan which stated he should not be involved in an outside business without the written permission of the hotel.
He decided to question Mr Ryan directly about the matter, as it allegedly involved a matter of dishonesty. At an initial meeting, he said, Mr Ryan was irate and did not deny being involved in a sauna club in Shannon.
He said Mr Ryan claimed he was not taking any salary from the sauna club but was using it towards his pension.
Mr Ryan, it was claimed, did not see the second role as a breach of contract, but did not say why he did not inform the hotel.
Mr Comerford said Mr Ryan claimed the hotel was making a mountain out of a molehill.
Mr Comerford denied dismissing Mr Ryan was a knee-jerk, homophobic reaction and claimed it was Mr Ryan who raised the sexual orientation of the club’s clientele.
The reason for dismissing Mr Ryan was the dishonesty involved, said Mr Comerford.
He said Mr Ryan knew the terms of his contract and chose not to tell the hotel of his other business.
Mr Comerford said the hotel regarded it as a matter of gross misconduct
Mr Ryan said that, when he started work as manager of the leisure centre in Oct 2008, he signed contract documents and was very pleased.
He did not recall being told that he should not be engaged in any other business without prior consent of the hotel, or that he could be sacked if found to be in breach of this.
When confronted about his outside business, he told the hotel management openly and honestly that he was not engaged in an outside business, but that he was a director of the company. He did not see how this could be gross misconduct.
Following a number of meetings, he was dismissed and felt stunned and shell-shocked, he said.
He said he got the idea for the sauna club in Spain and thought it was an unique concept.
He said he got involved in the business because the hotel industry could be quite fickle.
Mr Ryan said if the hotel had given him the chance to give up the sauna club role, he would have done so because the hotel job was secure.
He denied being told his outside business interest constituted gross misconduct and could lead to his dismissal.
“I knew there was a degree of seriousness, but no more than other matters that would occur,” said Mr Ryan.
Others in the hotel were also second jobbing, he claimed.
Mr Ryan said somebody was out to assassinate his character, as a false complaint had also been made to the sauna club landlord that he was running a head shop there.
In his dealings with the hotel, Mr Ryan said he never set out to deliberately deceive, and answered all questions honestly.
He admitted his role in the sauna club involved ordering, co-ordinating, and delegating, but denied it was a hands-on role.
However, he said it did not affect his job performance at the Charleville Park Hotel.
Mr Ryan’s wife, Niamh, said her husband’s dismissal had a horrendous affect on their financial circumstances and, at one point, they had to burn a floor of their house for heating fuel.
The hearing will issue its findings shortly.
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