Ex-Supermac’s manager claims he was ‘ostracised’ after disagreement with founder over alleged non-payment of workers

Fast-food chain’s barrister said it was making ‘complete and utter denial of that claim’

A former Supermac’s area manager claims he was stripped of duties, ostracised by senior colleagues and ultimately demoted over a disagreement with its owner, Pat McDonagh, about an alleged practice of withholding pay from staff during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

The well-known businessman was named in connection with a complaint of penalisation under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 against Supermac’s Ireland Ltd by the ex-employee, Peter Straka, at a preliminary hearing at the Workplace Relations Commission on Monday.

The fast food chain’s barrister said it was making a “complete and utter denial of that claim” and other employment rights matters advanced by the worker, which include a complaint of unfair dismissal in February 2023.

However, Supermac’s has conceded that it failed to give Mr Straka his last week’s wages in error.


Thomas O’Donnell, appearing for Mr Straka instructed by Roger Cleary of Cleary & Co Solicitors, said his client had spent 16 years working his way up from an entry-level job in the fast-food chain to reach the point where he became a regional manager in October 2019.

“During the course of Covid, there were payments – hours worked by employees – that weren’t paid, and the claimant was instructed not to pay certain hours and essentially bank the hours for the future,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Counsel said his client’s case is that he voiced his disquiet in email correspondence with the company between April 29th, 2020, and May 11th that year. Then, on May 12th, Mr McDonagh came to speak directly to his client at the restaurant group’s office in Clonmel, Mr O’Donnell said.

“[Mr McDonagh] wasn’t satisfied with the claimant’s view, his opinion, regarding the non-payment of employees,” Mr O’Donnell said.

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“The claimant will maintain that following that incident with Mr McDonagh he was ostracised by senior management, left out of meetings, had his role diminished and [that] certain areas were removed from his remit, ultimately ending up in him being demoted ... in January 2023.

“He wouldn’t accept the demotion and was finally dismissed as a result of that,” Mr O’Donnell said.

The restaurant group’s barrister, Ian FitzHarris, appearing instructed by solicitor David Gaffney, said the firm was making a “complete and utter denial of that claim”.

“Given that we’re learning about the contours of that for the first time today, it appears well out of time,” he said, adding that Supermac’s would argue that the whistleblower penalisation allegations were beyond the tribunal’s usual jurisdiction of six months in making a preliminary objection.

Adjudicator Emile Daly said she expected it to be a “very contested case” and that she wanted new legal submissions to bring clarity on whether the penalisation complaint would fall inside the six-month time limit.

“If everything was more or less all right in 2021 and 2022, that’s an uphill battle. If there was a continual drip-feed of adverse treatment over time, that’s a different case,” the adjudicator said.

Earlier, the WRC’s remote hearing link for the case remained closed to the public for nearly an hour after the listed time for the hearing this afternoon. Ms Daly explained that she had consulted with the tribunal’s in-house legal counsel about conducting the case behind closed doors, but that she would now hear the case in public.

At hearing today, a number of Mr Straka’s complaints were identified as duplicates and withdrawn. His remaining complaints under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1994, the Sick Leave Act 2022 are to be heard jointly at a later date, yet to be scheduled by the WRC.

Ms Daly gave the parties eight weeks for an exchange of legal submissions and adjourned the matter.