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Unfair Dismissal – Beware of Christmas Office Parties!

The case of John Graham v Newlands Cross Hotel t/a Bewleys Hotel Dublin Airport UD886/2012, MN 625/2012 highlights some of the difficulties which can arise at christmas office parties. In this case a confrontation occurred between the claimant and WS at the staff Christmas party on Wednesday the 5th of January 2012. As a result of the incident the claimant was dismissed on 2nd February 2012. WS, the bar man in this case accepted that a confrontation occurred and that “there were two of us in it” but he was not disciplined. CCTV footage was available of the alleged altercation and the claimant was suspended and subsequently called to a disciplinary hearing. The claimant was not informed of the potential disciplinary action which could be taken against him. The claimant was offered the opportunity to view the CCTV but replied “what’s the point”. The claimant did not appeal the dismissal as he felt the outcome was a “foregone conclusion”.The Tribunal carefully considered all of the evidence including the CCTV footage supplied by the respondent and determined:”The CCTV footage was not completely conclusive and did not provide the Tribunal with any clear or accurate evidence of what occurred on the night in question. The claimant accepted that a confrontation did occur followed by an altercation and he was not proud of his behaviour.The respondent accepted that the investigation and procedure that followed the incident, leading to the claimant’s dismissal for gross misconduct was not perfect.The Tribunal do not condone violence in the workplace. However it is noted the claimant was the only employee disciplined following the incident on the 5th January at the staff Christmas party which was organised by the respondent company. It must be stated that the claimant contributed to his dismissal by his own behaviour on the night”The Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair and award the claimant €25,000 compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007.

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