Worker sacked for walking across live rail lines on toilet trip

Court upholds ruling man was unfairly dismissed but contributed 90% to his dismissal

The Labour Court has also upheld the adjudication officer’s ruling that Mr Davis’s former employer, waste firm Enva, pay him €3,700. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

The Labour Court has also upheld the adjudication officer’s ruling that Mr Davis’s former employer, waste firm Enva, pay him €3,700. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

 

A field service operator carrying out contract work for Irish Rail was sacked for crossing three live train track lines during a toilet trip at Mallow Station in Cork.

In the case, the Labour Court has upheld a ruling by an adjudication officer that Gerry Davis was unfairly dismissed but contributed 90 per cent to his own dismissal.

The Labour Court has also upheld the adjudication officer’s ruling that Mr Davis’s former employer, waste firm Enva, pay him €3,700.

The case was before the Labour Court as Mr Davis was appealing the part of the ruling that he contributed 90 per cent to his own dismissal.

On October 19th, 2015, Mr Davis went back across the live rail tracks after his visit to the toilet in spite of being reprimanded by Mallow station manager, Brian Gardiner, about crossing the line in the first place.

In evidence, Mr Davis said prior to making his toilet trip, he received a phone call from his wife who he said was extremely distressed. She told him her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Mr Davis said the news was hugely upsetting to him and following the phone call, he was in a very distressed and distracted state.

Arising from the incident, Irish Rail made a formal complaint to Enva about Mr Davis twice crossing the rail lines and not wearing his high-visibility clothing at the time.

Gross misconduct

Irish Rail viewed what occurred as a major incident from a health and safety point of view and Mr Davis was sacked by Enva in December 2015 for gross misconduct.

Irish Rail decided the CCTV footage of the incident be used by its health and safety department as a case study of “what not to do”. As a result of the incident, Enva was put on a final warning across all Irish Rail sites.

Mr Davis was sacked for gross misconduct as he was adjudged to have wilfully breached safety rules, deliberately refused to obey a legitimate and reasonable work instruction and to have brought Enva into disrepute.

Enva argued that Mr Davis’s actions had destroyed the company’s trust and confidence in him and rendered the continuation of the employment relationship impossible, therefore justifying dismissal.

In response, Mr Davis said there were no trains or activity taking place when he crossed and it was safe for him to do so.

Solicitor for Mr Davis, Gerry Meagher, told the hearing his client’s conduct amounted to “human error” and there were extreme extenuating circumstances giving rise to the error, which Enva had failed to appreciate.

Mr Meagher argued that Enva also failed to take into account Mr Davis’s exemplary work record and failed to act in a proportionate manner.

The Labour Court found that it concurred with the findings of the adjudication officer and rejected Mr Davis’s appeal.