Christmas party argument leads to €25,000 dismissal payment

IRN recently reported on an Unfair Dismissals Case where an employee had been at the Hotel’s employee Christmas party. He had been drinking, and was in the smoking area when he felt a burn on his hand and turned around to see his co-worker with a cigarette. He said to his co-worker that he had stubbed his cigarette out on his hand, the other employee did not apologise and he became very angry and charged at the co-worker. Others in the smoking area were pushed aside, and one person fell to the ground.  The employee moved away to the bar, where he was approached by a security man who asked him to leave. He states that he ‘panicked’ and pushed the guard, and said that he was not aware that the man (who was wearing a black suit) was a security guard.

On investigation, the co-worker, who was a barman, claimed that he did not know that he had burnt another employee and – if he had known – he would have apologised. CCTV was also reviewed, and the employee who was burned was called to a disciplinary meeting to discuss the incidents.

All present at the disciplinary meeting agreed that the 2 incidents were serious, management stated that no other sanction other than dismissal could be considered.

However, the Tribunal did not agree that the CCTV was completely conclusive, and although the employee accepted that a confrontation did occur, followed by an altercation, he was not proud of his behaviour. The Tribunal did not condone violence in the workplace, but it was noted that the claimant was the only employee disciplined following the incident, and it must be stated that the claimant contributed to his dismissal by his behaviour that night. However, the Tribunal awarded €25,000 for unfair dismissal. (JG v Newlands Cross Hotel UD 886/2012)