Drug-addicted porter who dressed as dinosaur in hospital loses unfair dismissal claim

Drug-addicted porter who dressed as dinosaur in hospital loses unfair dismissal claim

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne, found that the dismissal of the hospital porter was reasonable, proportionate and was not unfair.

 A cocaine addict who dressed up as a dinosaur while working as a porter at a hospital has lost his unfair dismissal action.

This follows Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne finding that the dismissal of the hospital porter was reasonable, proportionate and was not unfair.

The porter first came to the negative notice of his hospital bosses after a clinical nurse manager reported that on April 11th 2019 that he was distracting staff from getting on with their work, had dressed up as a dinosaur and had disrupted the evening drug administration round.

Ms Byrne stated that the facts as outlined by the hospital concerning the April 11 incident are facts as they have not been contradicted.

A representative for the unnamed hospital told the WRC hearing that on April 11th 2019, the porter was unable to perform his duties due to being under the influence of alcohol, unprescribed drugs or the misuse of prescribed medicine.

Addicted to alcohol and cocaine

The porter was referred to a rehab programme after the hospital’s Occupational Health Consultant (OHC) confirmed that the porter tested positive for cocaine and benzodiazepine and that he had an addiction to cocaine and alcohol after a consultation in June 2019.

Four days after the ‘dinosaur’ incident on April 15th 2019, at the first consultation, the OHC concluded that the porter was suffering from depression and anxiety.

However, the porter disagreed with the OHC’s recommendation that he attend a rehab programme.

A representative for the hospital told the WRC hearing that the man failed to engage with management after disagreeing with the OHC recommendation.

The hospital representative stated that despite numerous attempts to contact him, the porter did not make any contact with management until he was dismissed in September 2019.

Sacked for gross misconduct

The hospital stated that the man — employed there since 2013 — was dismissed for gross misconduct for failing to perform his job due to being under the influence of unprescribed drugs or prescribed medicine and for failing to engage with management about his ongoing absence.

The hospital stated that it had no option but to terminate the porter’s employment due to his failure to engage with them, his failure to undertake a rehabilitation programme and his failure to fulfil the terms of his contract.

The hospital stated that it has an intoxicants policy in place where the misuse of drugs or alcohol by an employee which impairs their ability to do their work may result in disciplinary action up to dismissal.

The hospital stated that an employee with an addiction problem will be encouraged to seek help; however, failure to continue with treatment or to respond to treatment may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

The hospital stated that the worker had an obligation to get treatment to deal with his addictions.

In her findings, Ms Byrne stated that it is apparent that the porter was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of his failure to keep in touch with his employer during an absence of 20 weeks, breaches of the absence policy regarding medical certificates and his refusal to follow the advice of the OHC and get treatment for his addictions.

Seeking treatment

Ms Byrne stated that following the incident in the hospital on April 11th 2019, when the porter dressed up as a dinosaur, he was referred to the hospital OHC who recommended a residential drug treatment programme.

Ms Byrne stated that the complainant didn’t participate in a programme, saying that the only one he could find was for six months’ duration.

She stated: “I find this difficult to accept, because all the providers of addiction treatment have courses designed to meet the needs of clients."

Ms Byrne stated that it was her view that, if the porter had responded to any of the four letters from the HR Department on July 15th, August 6th, 19th or 23rd, he could have got help to identify a treatment programme that was suitable to his needs.

It was argued on behalf of the porter that the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate, as he had no disciplinary record prior to his absence from April 15th 2019.

On behalf of the porter, SIPTU argued that the hospital took no account of mitigating circumstances and that he was suffering from depression, his partner was expecting a baby and they had lost their accommodation and had to move in with his parents.

Ms Byrne stated that she has taken account of these mitigating circumstances.

It is clear to me that the complainant was not dismissed because he has a drug and alcohol problem, but because he failed to engage with his employer over a period of 20 weeks and to get support and return to work

Ms Byrne stated that it was her view that, if he had cooperated with his employer from early on, or even from June 2019, when the OHC advised him to get treatment, he could have prevented his dismissal.

Ms Byrne stated: “While I accept that the domestic and health issues he had to deal with were stressful and challenging, one of the positive things in his life was his job.” Ms Byrne stated that she was confident “that, if he had kept in touch with his employer, with the support of SIPTU, he would have been treated with compassion”.

 

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