A multinational firm sacked an Irish employee after he washed his feet in a container used for serving food in the factory canteen.
Martin Conroy took an unfair dismissal case at the Employment Appeals Tribunal against Baxter Healthcare over the May 2014 decision.
The case heard that Mr Conroy started working with the firm in 1977 and was promoted and moved to its Swinford, Co Mayo base in 1989, where he served as an electrical craftsman.
The matter was heard in Castlebar on eight days between April 25th, 2016 and June 14th last with Mr Conroy telling the tribunal the decision to sack him was too harsh in the circumstances.
Around the time of the incident he said he was very stressed and was suffering with diabetes. His doctor had advised him to look after himself and his feet as they could be susceptible to burning and sores due to the illness.
Mr Conroy told the tribunal he had taken to bathing his feet while working but only for medical purposes. He agreed he had bathed his feet on the occasion in question and admitted to using a steel receptacle from the canteen to do so but insisted it was cleaned thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap when he finished.
In hindsight, he agreed it was wrong to use the container from the canteen to bathe his feet and that he would apologise now for his actions. He said he was not in a good place at the time and felt the firm had shown “no compassion.”
At a meeting with company officials before his dismissal, Mr Conroy claimed other staff were using canteen items for other purposes on the factory floor. He was asked for examples and who was doing so but offered up no names.
The company interviewed 25 employees in relation to the matter and the issue of other staff using canteen items on the factory floor. Afterwards, Baxter wrote to Mr Conroy to tell him his employment would be terminated as “the bond of trust and confidence that form the foundation of our relationship with you has been irretrievably broken”.
He claimed the decision was motivated by mala fides – or bad faith – on the part of Baxter towards him and that the company had not taken his attendance record and previous good conduct into account.
In its ruling, the tribunal found that by washing his feet in a stainless steel container used for serving food Mr Conroy had engaged in unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. It also found he gave inconsistent evidence and attempted to deflect responsibility. Baxter’s decision to sack him was reasonable and the case was handled fairly by the company, it found.