Woman witnessed suicides, drug abuse and child neglect in hotel

Receptionist found to be constructively dismissed awarded €15,000 by commission

A receptionist working in a hotel used by a local authority to accommodate homeless people quit her job after witnessing suicides, drug abuse, fighting, and child neglect. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

A receptionist working in a hotel used by a local authority to accommodate homeless people quit her job after witnessing suicides, drug abuse, fighting, and child neglect. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

A receptionist working in a hotel used by a local authority to accommodate homeless people quit her job after witnessing suicides, drug abuse, fighting, and child neglect, the Workplace Relations Commission has heard.

The former employee brought a case for unfair dismissal against the owners of the hotel, claiming that she had been constructively dismissed in November 2015 after 13 years with the company.

She told an adjudication hearing that, prior to 2008, the hotel’s clientele typically consisted of concert and event-goers and builders working in Dublin.

Following the economic downturn, however, the hotel sought an alternative clientele in order to remain viable and this included homeless people who were being accommodated in hotels by Dublin City Council.

By 2013, the hotel was almost exclusively used for this purpose and received a rate of €35 per bed per night, making up to €12,000 per week at full occupancy.

The owner of the hotel died around this time and the premises was taken over by his wife and family, with whom, the commission heard, the receptionist had a somewhat fraught relationship.

‘Considerable difficulties’

She said the change in clientele resulted in “considerable difficulties” that she had to deal with in her role. These included suicides, near-deaths caused by overdoses, fights, needles in bedrooms, and evidence of child neglect.

Penelope McGrath, adjudication officer for the commission, said there could be “no doubt that this workplace has been an extremely difficult one” since the employer got involved in providing beds for the homeless.

“Absolutely no normal rules or criteria can apply where people are overdosing and committing suicide in the workplace,” she added.

Ms McGrath said that it was “surprising” that the council had made no real effort to assist in training hotel staff to deal with the needs of the homeless. This was compounded when staff were being asked to deal with drug addicts.

‘Stressful working environment’

“In the absence of such support, the onus firmly rests on the employer to adequately train staff or to give them facility to cope with the vicissitudes associated with this inherently stressful working environment,” she said.

In her decision, the adjudication officer held that the complainant’s decision to resign in November 2015 came as a result of the “lack of support, counselling, understanding, and sense of personal security” in the workplace.

She found the woman had therefore been constructively dismissed and awarded her €15,000 in compensation.