High Court Finds Hotel Worker was Unfairly Dismissed After Altercation with the Managing Director

Last updated: June 22nd, 2022

A recent High Court decision to uphold the unfair dismissal ruling by an Employment Appeals Tribunal and held by the Circuit Court in Eugene Young V Towerbrook Ltd T/A Castle Durrow County House Hotel highlights the need for a company to ensure that all disciplinary matters are conducted in a fair, impartial and objective manner.

Justice Barton found the investigation / disciplinary meeting which resulted in the dismissal of Mr. Young, a Hotel worker with Castle Durrow Country House Hotel in Durrow Co. Laois was neither independent, thorough, impartial nor objective. 

Background

The case arose from an incident on a busy June Bank Holiday weekend. Over the course of the weekend, a considerable amount of rubbish was brought from the property to the rear of the hotel in the vicinity of the kitchen. As a hotel general porter, one of Mr. Young’s responsibilities was to remove rubbish for collection. Mr. Young was also responsible for transporting food and provisions prepared in the hotel’s kitchen to a local café in the nearby town of Abbeyleix. The café was also owned by the hotels Managing Director Mr. Stokes.

The hotel had a strict policy in place whereby staff were not permitted to collect and remove rubbish from the vicinity of the kitchen before 11am daily. The purpose of said policy was to ensure that guests were not disturbed.

Mr. Young was aware of this requirement. On the morning of June 4th, Mr. Young was scheduled to deliver food from the Kitchen to the Café in Abbeyleix, however, due to the extent of rubbish deposited at the rear of the property, Mr. Young was unable to load the delivery into his vehicle. Finding himself in what he described as ‘a no win situation’ Mr. Young opted to remove the rubbish with the assistance of a fellow employee.

Mr. Young told the court that when Mr. Stokes arrived on the scene he was very angry and that he shouted at Mr. Young using foul expletives demanding to know what Mr. Young thought he was doing breaching the house rules. Mr. Young claimed that the altercation escalated with Mr. Stokes punching Mr. Young in the chest.

On his account, Mr. Stokes was annoyed by the activity. He accepted that an argument had ensued during which he may have wagged his finger and may have poked or jabbed his finger in the chest of Mr. Young.

The court heard that efforts had been made by Mr. Young to resolve the matter with Mr. Stokes. However, when Mr. Stokes did not turn up for the meeting which they had mutually agreed to have the following day, Mr. Young went to discuss the matter with the hotels Financial Controller Ms. Shairp.

Ms. Shairp told the court that when Mr. Young came to her office he claimed to be upset that Mr. Stokes had failed to attend their meeting and that Mr. Young proceeded to remove his shirt to show Ms. Shairp the bruising which Mr. Young claimed to have on his chest following the altercation with Mr. Stokes.  Ms. Shairp told the court that she was frightened by Mr. Young’s behavior as she was alone in her office with him at the time.

Disciplinary proceedings were later initiated over both incidents. The allegations were considered to be Gross Misconduct. Mr. Stokes conducted the investigation / disciplinary meeting himself into his own complaint and that of Ms. Shairp against Mr. Young.   Ms. Shairp accompanied Mr. Stokes at the hearing.  Mr. Stokes then took the decision to dismiss Mr. Young from his employment for Gross Misconduct.

Determination of the High Court

Justice Barton ruled that the process adopted by the company was fundamentally flawed as the disciplinary meeting leading to the dismissal was conducted as it was by Mr. Stokes himself into his own complaint against Mr. Young contrary to natural justice and fair procedure. Furthermore, this did not comply with the disciplinary procedures which the company itself had adopted.  The High Court will deal later with the award and costs.

Key learning for employers

The maxim that no man should be a judge in his own cause is highlighted in this case. When it comes to disciplinary matters, employers must ensure that the rules of natural justice are consistently applied.

Said constitutional rights provide the employee with an entitlement to benefit from fair procedures, i.e. to be informed of the charge or complaint against them, to be given an opportunity to respond to same and to have said response duly considered by an impartial, unbiased and independent party.

If you have any questions in relation to this case or disciplinary procedures, please contact our advice line on 1890 253 369

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Latest Resources

Probationary periods and employment contracts affected by new rules

As January is a quiet time for many business owners, it can be a good time to do some HR jobs that have been put […]

Handling employee resignation and notice periods in Ireland

Employee resigning with documents and belongings
How to handle employee resignation and notice periods in Ireland From time to time, an employee resigns to pursue a career outside of your organisation. […]

Employer’s guide to the Organisation of Working Time Act

Employer’s guide to the Organisation of Working Time Act The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. What does this legislation set out to do and […]

Nora Cashe

Peninsula

Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.