Bewleys Hotel at Dublin Airport has been ordered by the Employment Appeals Tribunal to pay a former worker who got into a confrontation at a work Christmas party €25,000 compensation for unfair dismissal.
John Graham, a courtesy bus driver transporting customers to and from the airport, was dismissed by the hotel almost a month after the incident on January 5.
The tribunal heard that the confrontation occurred between Mr Graham and another person WS, a barman, at the staff party. WS denied to the tribunal he provoked Mr Graham. He said he was unaware he had accidentally burned the other man with his cigarette and said he would have apologised if he had known. He confirmed that a confrontation ensued and that “there was two of us in it”. He was not disciplined, according to the tribunal.
Mr Graham’s evidence was that he felt his hand burning, that it felt like the cigarette was being stubbed out on his hand and that when he sought an apology none was forthcoming. He said there was pushing and a bystander was knocked to the ground. Mr Grahamwas approached by a man in a black jacket and was asked to leave. He said in a panicked reaction he leaned forward and pushed the man. He said he was not aware it was a doorman.
The doorman gave evidence that Mr Graham assaulted him, adding that he did not see the earlier incident. The group HR manager (HOB) and general manager (RB) reviewed CCTV footage in the days after the incident. After a meeting with PP, the financial director, a letter of suspension was sent to the claimant telling him a disciplinary meeting would take place to discuss the incidents. He was then sent a letter telling him that meeting would take place on January 20.
Neither the suspension letter or the disciplinary invitation letter gave notice of the possible disciplinary action that could be taken against him. The tribunal was told that at the disciplinary meeting it was clear to HOB that the claimant was unprepared and unwilling to engage in the process. The meeting was adjourned with the claimant denying all wrongdoing.
At another meeting on January 23 HOB warned the claimant that his failure to co-operate could be deemed a reason for dismissal. HOB was unable to get a statement from the claimant as to his version of events.
A meeting was scheduled for January 30. Throughout the process the claimant maintained he was being used as a scapegoat. He did provide a statement for the final meeting. At the meeting the CCTV was viewed by everyone present. The claimant acknowledged it was a serious incident. After the investigation and the disciplinary meetings HOB concluded that she preferred the evidence given by the other witnesses and Mr Graham was summarily dismissed for “engaging in deliberate acts of violence and threatening behaviour towards fellow employees”.
The tribunal said it carefully considered all the evidence, including the CCTV footage, which it said did not provide it with any clear or accurate evidence of what occurred on the night. ”The tribunal do not condone violence in the workplace. However it is noted the claimant was the only employee disciplined following the incident.”
It awarded him €25,000 compensation.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved