Hotel Bar Man awarded €20k for dismissal after disclosing he was gay.

The barman who was working to fund his college studies was dismissed after two weeks service during which he was unaware that there were any problems with his work and concluded that everything had changed very quickly after he told the bar manager that he was gay. (Ref Dec- E2015-141)

The claimant outlined that he was an experienced barman with excellent references and after commencing work in the hotel on the 1st March 2014 he had his measurements taken for his uniform and was asked on the 11th March 2014 to submit his payment details and photo ID to the HR Manager and believed everything was going well. He outlined that he worked a total of 7 shifts without any issues being brought to his attention.

The claimant contended that following his dismissal on reflection he realised that after telling the bar manager on the 8th March 2014 that the reason he had not called a female customer who had given him her number was that he preferred men, the bar manager’s attitude to him changed and this resulted in the manager dismissing him on the 13th March when he called a meeting and said “I am going to keep this sweet, you are not what we are looking for, I am just going to shake your hand. You are more of a barman than a hotel man”. The claimant outlined that he had met the HR Manager on his way to this meeting and she was unaware that it was taking place.

The hotel responded and said that the claimant’s sexuality had nothing to do with his dismissal and that they were entitled to dismiss within his probationary period and that after the Bar Manager had observed the claimant over seven shifts, he had formed the opinion that he was slow around the till, had an excessive till void and drink spillage rate and did not have good customer awareness.  

The Bar Manager denied any recollection of the conversation about the claimant’s sexuality and said that he had decided not to raise the performance issues with the claimant and thought it would be better to let him go on good terms and he believed that the claimant would be better suited to a quieter bar.

The Adjudication Officer concluded as follows:

  • It was inconsistent that the Bar Manager had requested uniform measurements if he was so concerned about performance;
  • The Bar Manager should have given the claimant some indication of his concerns about his performance and it was not credible that he was dismissed so quickly given his excellent reference from his former employer;
  • The documentation around till voids and spillages was not put to the claimant at the time nor was information supplied at the hearing in respect of how it compared with employees of similar experience;
  • The Bar Manager’s lack of knowledge of employment and equality law was very concerning.

The Adjudication Officer determined that the only credible explanation for the claimant’s sudden dismissal without being afforded any due process was that it came on foot of his disclosure about his sexuality and determined that he had been discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation contrary to Section 6 (2) (d) and Section 8 of the Employment Equality Acts in relation to his dismissal on 13th March 2014 and awarded €20,000 compensation. The Hotel was also directed to review it’s recruitment policy and provide equality training to staff.

Apart from the lessons on how discrimination on one of the nine protected grounds can occur in the workplace, employers should also note that the probationary period does not permit dismissal with providing new employees feedback and the opportunity to improve if there are performance issues.