A chef who accused Dublin restaurateur John Farrell of discriminating against him because he is Mauritian has lost his equality claim at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Kingsley Auguste, the former head chef at Dillingers in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, said members of the restaurant’s management team: “treat their own people in a better way than us foreigners” and would not greet non-Irish kitchen staff – claims denied by Mr Farrell.
At a hearing last year, the restaurateur accused the chef of having such a temper he considered calling gardaí on Christmas Eve two years ago.
Mr Auguste had brought multiple statutory pay and working time complaints against Dillinger’s Restaurant Ltd, along with a discrimination claim under the Employment Equality Act on the grounds of race and family status.
All bar one of the complaints have been rejected by the WRC, either for lack of evidence or because it found too much time had passed for it to investigate Mr Auguste’s allegations.
However, the tribunal did order the restaurant’s management to pay Mr Auguste just under €900 over its failure to pay him a premium rate for Sunday work.
At a hearing last month, the tribunal heard competing accusations about the running of the restaurant, the alleged “unfriendly” attitude of its management towards non-Irish staff, and a Christmas Eve row in 2021 that ultimately led Mr Auguste to resign in February 2022.
Mr Auguste said he had a “big clash” with Mr Farrell that day because the restaurant boss wanted menu changes.
He said he had been called in to work at 7am that day because both the restaurant’s usual managers were out sick with Covid-19 – the Government having just imposed fresh public health measures ordering 8pm closures across the hospitality sector.
“Me and Mr Farrell, we have a big clash, because he knew that the menu was set up that day was set up three or four weeks before, and he never said anything. Only half an hour before service,” Mr Auguste said.
“He sent me home and tells me I am suspended without any warning or anything. That ruined the whole day with my family. I will never forget that year,” he said.
Mr Auguste also said the restaurant’s other chef “wanted to walk off that day as well” but was only stopped when Mr Farrell went out to the street to “offer a raise in front of me” to the other chef.
“That wouldn’t be my recollection ... Kingsley would have got quite aggressive that morning,” Mr Farrell said.
“[Mr Auguste] started to bang things, scream and shout. I actually had to tell him to leave because his behaviour was so aggressive to the point that I was about to call the guards if he didn’t stop. He went out and stood around in the laneway – at that point I told him to go home,” he said.
Mr Farrell said Mr Auguste left with his daughter, who had also worked at the restaurant, and “tried to get the chefs to leave with him”.
“That sounds like the end of the relationship,” said adjudicating officer Catherine Byrne.
Mr Auguste said members of management at the business would “sit down and have a coffee” with the front-of-house manager if they visited the restaurant but “never say hi” to kitchen staff, who were mostly non-Irish, he said.
“They treat their own people in a better way than us foreigners, you know,” he said.
“I would disagree, obviously...the [group] executive chef, he’s from Mauritius, as well as Nadeem here,” Mr Farrell said in response, referring to a chef, Nadeem Ramjahn, who had attended the hearing with him.
“When I walk into the kitchen I’d be saying hello to everyone. This comes from basically a very strong temper from Kingsley which would have flared up a few times, not being able to talk to him in a calm manager without him getting worked up, angry,” Mr Farrell added.
In her decision, Ms Byrne wrote that it was “apparent that relations between [Mr Farrell] and [Mr Auguste] were starting to fray at the edges coming up to Christmas 2021″.
“The complainant’s sense that the management were unfriendly may or may not be well founded, but it is my view that this was not related to the fact that he is Mauritian,” she added.
On Mr Auguste’s claim that he worked excessive hours, Ms Byrne noted that the roster document given to her showed Mr Auguste “frequently worked long hours, up to 47 hours a week”.
However, there was “no evidence” he worked over 48 hours “any week” during the six-month period she had jurisdiction to investigate.
The limit to her jurisdiction also meant that Mr Auguste’s claims for annual leave and rest breaks were out of time, as well as his complaint that he had not been paid for extra work when the restaurant was only open for takeaways, Ms Byrne wrote.
However, she found that Mr Auguste’s contract of employment only referred to “occasional” Sunday work and that he ought to have been paid a premium for 17 Sundays he worked in a six-month period prior to lodging his complaint.
She awarded him €895 for a breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 2004 on that basis.