Ex-Dalata employee claims unfair dismissal over petty cash use

WRC hears ex-hotel manager’s actions represented ‘egregious and repeated’ breaches of policy

A former manager of a Sligo hotel has claimed he was unfairly sacked from his €101,500 per annum job for seeking to pay temporary staff hired at short notice with petty cash in what he claimed were exceptional circumstances.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard that Fergal Ryan, the former general manager of the Clayton Hotel in Sligo, was dismissed by the Dalata Hotel Group on January 30th, 2020 for gross misconduct following a disciplinary investigation which found he had breached the company’s petty cash policy on three occasions.

Mr Ryan’s solicitor Barry Creed said the breaches included Mr Ryan’s decision to hire his partner – a former restaurant manager at the hotel – to work two days in December 2018 as a substitute for the chef whose father had died.

Another incident related to the use of two hotel porters as extra security staff in February 2019. Mr Creed said the final issue arose about his client’s hiring of a replacement chef in April 2019 when he questioned if it were better that Mr Ryan would have “left 450 guests without food”.


‘Egregious and repeated’ breaches

Counsel for Dalata, Aaron Shearer BL, said Mr Ryan’s actions represented “egregious and repeated” breaches of the company’s cash handling policy when he should have known they were “wholly inappropriate” and would warrant dismissal.

Mr Ryan, who has worked in the hotel industry for 30 years and with Dalata since 2014, claimed disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him in 2019 after he had declined offers from his employer to leave his role as general manager.

Mr Shearer said the company did not accept such an allegation and noted there was a dispute between the parties about whether the group’s general manager, Des McCann, had offered Mr Ryan a severance package.

In November 2019, Mr Ryan secured a temporary injunction from the High Court preventing Dalata from carrying out an investigation into his conduct.

The High Court was subsequently informed that the issue had been resolved as the parties had agreed that fresh internal disciplinary proceedings would be conducted by Dalata’s corporate development director, Shane Casserly.

Mr Casserly told the WRC on Tuesday that he did not believe the breaches of policy represented exceptional circumstances.

He said the incident relating to the death of the chef’s father was not exceptional within the meaning of the policy but was “undoubtedly a very challenging episode”.

He said Mr Ryan made no effort to find a solution that was consistent with the policy and that he would have been clear about the policy after the first incident.

Mr Casserly said he found an allegation Mr Ryan directed the engagement of unauthorised security personnel in breach of private security legislation, unproven.

The WRC heard Mr Ryan should not have hired his partner as she had received a severance payment to leave the hotel because of her relationship with him.

The hearing was adjourned until a future date to be fixed.