Wednesday 23 October 2019

Judge rules that former Monart House employee was unfairly dismissed


MONART HOUSE HOTEL a leading destination spa has been ordered to pay €7,500 compensation to an employee who was found to be unfairly dismissed after an incident relating to a glass of wine and glass of coke.

John Kavanagh, of Templeudigan, Ballywilliam, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, brought a civil action against Monart House Hotel, Still, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, as the result of dismissal from his employment in July, 2007.

Counsel for the Plaintifff, Dorothy Donovan, B.L., told Judge Gerard Griffin at a sitting of Wexford Circuit Civil Court, that the plaintiff John Kavanagh was investigated for drinking on the job and theft.

It was a case relating to drinking a glass of wine after hours and providing one of the chefs with a glass of coke.

Ms. Donovan told of a group of staff members going to the General Manager, Mark Browne, to complain about the handling of tips, a meeting that took place prior to this incident, the group been led by Mr. Kavanagh.

Ms Donovan said that on or about September 7, 2004, Mr. Kavanagh commenced employment in the Ferrycarrig Hotel as a barman which is owned by Liam Griffin who also owns the Monart House Hotel. The Plaintiff was then employed as a part-time barman at Monart until in or about April 2006 at which time he was made fulltime barman until July 12, 2007.

The Plaintiff along with some of his fellow workers, she said, had a grievance concerning accountability in relation to tips that were been withheld from them. In particular they required information of the total amount of tips collected for a period and when they received tips what was the period covered. The Plaintiff organised a delegation of seven employees who had a meeting with Mark Browne with the matter been taken up by David Dillon on the following day, June 27, 2007.

The company claimed that the drinking of a glass of wine and the providing of a glass of coke to the Chef, Mark Warner, was gross misconduct which they (Plaintiff) say is nothing as such, adding, that the Plaintiff was never given any minutes of the investigation meeting or the disciplinary meeting. She also said that when the Plaintiff arrived at the disciplinary meeting, accompanied by his solicitor, the company refused to allow the meeting go ahead, as they claimed they were also entitled to be legally represented.

The Plaintiff had been accused of theft and drinking on the job but in a case of law there was no theft of company property.

Ms Donovan also said the Plaintiff did not receive in writing any letter regarding meeting of July 10, 2007, or any documentation. He was not informed of the nature of the complaints and or allegations made against him or the name of the person making the allegations against him. The Plaintiff was also entitled to be fully informed of the nature of the case he had to meet prior to such meeting. Because of the failure of the defendants to comply they are guilty of a breach of their own policy regarding discipline and in breach of contract.

Defence Counsel, John Walsh, B.L. said the issue her is whether the offence constituted gross misconduct or misconduct.

In evidence John Kavanagh admitted to giving the chef a glass of coke but did not pay for it which was common practice, adding, that he never offered an alcoholic drink to staff. On the night he was working, the bar was closed, the lights were off, while there was a glass of wine in a bottle in full view at the back of the restaurant. He drank the glass of wine which was regular practice. He was later disciplined for these two incidents and subsequently dismissed.

Mr. Kavanagh also told the court that it was after leading the delegation to Mr. Browne relating to the tips that all of this took place.

He was subsequently supplied with his P45. Regarding the wine he did not believe it was drinking on the job.

Replying to Mr. Walsh the Plaintiff accepted drinking the wine but denied it was during work.

When Mr. Walsh told the court that minutes of the meetings were provided the day before the court, Judge Griffin said it would be totally unfair on the Plaintiff to introduce the minutes as he and his counsel had not seen them.

Mr. Derek Coyne, Deputy Manager, said he was not directly involved with any of the issues, but if he did offer a drink it would not be frequent but it would be signed off. In relation to the tips they as a management leave them to the staff and distance ourselves from them.

Ms Donovan claimed that her client was wrongfully dismissed and the facts did not support the serious allegations while it would have been more prudent and fairer to have held on to his P45 until the procedures were closed. The Plaintiff had his good name damaged and his employment prospects also damaged.

Judge Griffin said he found the process employed by the defendants to be flawed. He said it's very clear there's no evidence the Plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol. From there on the flaws commenced regarding information not been given in writing, while the minutes of the meeting were taken and never furnished to the Plaintiff.

Claiming that the Plaintiff was wrongfully dismissed, Judge Griffin awarded damages of €7,500 euro plus costs.

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