Worker sacked in face mask row gets €1,600

Employee tells WRC he never directly said to manager to `’f**k himself’

A warehouse worker sacked after being accused of telling his manager to “f**k himself” during a row over wearing a face mask should receive compensation of €1,600 for unfair dismissal, the Workplace Relations Commission has recommended.

The worker, who was on probation when the alleged incident took place on 7 July 2021, made a complaint of unfair dismissal against his employer under the Industrial Relations Act.

He disputed the company’s account and maintained he never said the offending words directly to his manager.

He told a hearing in April this year that he was loading parcels from the back of a trailer on to a conveyor belt in the day in question.

It could be “hard to breathe with the mask on” while doing such “strenuous” work, he said.

“Sometimes when the workers can’t catch their breath they pull their masks down for a moment to help them breathe,” he said, adding that there was a “common trend” for people to wear their masks below their nose.

He said the shift manager “walked by at least six people who weren’t wearing their mask[s] properly” to come and speak to him and a colleague in the truck trailer.

The shift manager told them “they had to put on their masks properly; that they were the ones giving out last week about Covid”, the complainant said.

The shift manager then asked him to a meeting and the complainant refused to go “unless it was a formal one with a witness”.

The manager had done “nothing but try [to] antagonise the situation in the past”, he said.

The complainant said as the shift manager “stormed off” he turned to his colleague and said the manager was picking on him.

The complainant then added: “Would he ever f**k off.”

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The complainant said he felt “singled out” and sought to make a complaint about the manager.

However, instead of being allowed to lay out his complaints at a meeting called later that day he said he was told he was being sacked.

He was told witnesses had said he told the shift manager to “fuck off”, which he disputed as he maintained he had “never said that directly to him”, he said.

He said the managers in the meeting told him there was “nothing they can do” as there was a “zero-tolerance policy for swearing at your boss”, he added.

Solicitor Colleen Cleary, who appeared for the company, said the complainant was dismissed for gross misconduct while on probation.

She said the complainant was wearing his mask “pulled down to his chin” on the day — having been told at least twice before that this was a breach of health and safety protocol.

The complainant “lost his temper and began to shout at his shift manager” and “used vulgar language”, Ms Cleary submitted.

Then he told the shift manager to “fuck himself”, she said.

Ms Cleary said there was an immediate investigation involving the taking of statements from staff present at the time which she said “corroborate the position of the respondent”.

The company considered the “level of abuse” and “serious breach of health and safety” to be gross misconduct, she said.

“The hub manager told the Complainant there and then that his employment would, unfortunately, be terminated immediately,” she concluded.

“I find that due process and fair procedures were not applied. The complainant was not given the right to a fair hearing, or to be represented, and I find the complainant was unfairly dismissed,” wrote adjudicating officer Gaye Cunningham in a recommendation published this morning (Friday).

But she added that the complainant had “contributed significantly” to his dismissal by his “previous behaviour and attitude to the respondent’s managers”.

In light of that, she recommended the company pay the complainant €1,600 in compensation, a sum equivalent to four weeks’ pay.

Dismissal complaints taken under the Industrial Relations Act are heard in private and the Workplace Relations Commission cannot make orders for redress or compensation — only a non-binding recommendation.