Man gets €3,500 for unfair dismissal after allegedly threatening to kill manager

WRC rules there were no substantial grounds to justify sacking of hostel night porter

Workplace Relations Commission: Process leading up to dismissal lacked fairness. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Workplace Relations Commission: Process leading up to dismissal lacked fairness. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A night porter who was sacked after allegedly threatening to kill his manager has been awarded compensation of €3,500 for unfair dismissal by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The unnamed Polish national was employed at a hostel for asylum seekers for 11 years prior to his dismissal, which occurred after his wife told a manager that he was on his way to the hostel to kill her.

The alleged threat followed a “relatively minor set of events” that had an “extraordinary” effect on the night porter, WRC adjudication officer James Kelly said in his decision.

The sequence of events began when the hostel manager left a note for the complainant on March 23th, 2016, that asked him to explain why a non-resident had been admitted to the premises after the 10pm curfew a few days earlier.

This made the night porter very stressed and he did not go to work the following day. He started drinking and attempted to take his own life on March 24th.

His wife, who worked as a cleaner at the hostel, met the manager the next day and told her that her husband was very angry with her. She then received a call from her daughter and told the manager that her husband was on his way to the hostel to kill her.

In her evidence to the adjudication hearing, the complainant’s wife said her English is limited and she had not literally meant that her husband was going to kill the manager.

The hostel manager called the Garda and a doctor, and both were on the premises when the complainant arrived. He left voluntarily at the direction of gardaí.

The night porter told the hearing he had never said that he was going to kill anyone. He had travelled to the hostel but only wanted to speak with the manager. He said she had overreacted by calling the authorities.

The complainant and his wife were subsequently invited to a series of meetings with a HR adviser, while he also attended the company doctor and was certified unfit for work for up to six weeks.

A number of these meetings were not attended by complainant, but those he did attend were “explosive, difficult and frustrating”, according to Mr Kelly, and both parties were suspicious of each other’s intentions during this period.

The complainant did not trust the HR adviser and felt that the meetings concentrated unduly on the alleged threat on the life of the hostel manager, the adjudication hearing was told.

A meeting to discuss the report of an independent third party on September 23ard was not attended by the complainant or his wife. On September 28th, he received an email stating that his refusal to participate in the process had been construed as a resignation.

In his decision, the adjudication officer said both parties had contributed to the breakdown in communication, but that the onus was on the employer to ensure its staff were aware of what was happening.

He described as “not unreasonable” the decision to call the Garda when the complainant was on his way to the hostel but said that the correspondence of September 28th had constituted a dismissal.

There were no substantial grounds to justify this dismissal and the process leading up to it had lacked fairness. The adjudication officer therefore concluded the dismissal had been unfair on procedural grounds and directed the hostel to pay complainant compensation of €3,500.