Nursing Home Chef Awarded €30k for Unfair Dismissal

In a recent case (UD1425/2012) a chef who had worked in a nursing home for almost 4 years was awarded €30,000 as the disciplinary process conducted was fundamentally flawed and prejudicial to the claimant.

The claimant had received a number of warnings including two final written warnings prior to the decision to dismiss him on foot of a complaint from two of his colleagues about his behaviour one weekend whilst working, when it was alleged that he spoke inappropriately to a resident, had purposely ignored a resident and delayed giving her lunch, had been heard shout in the dining room “let her wait” from the service area, and had knowingly gave a resident a cold plate instead of a hot plate.

Statements were taken from 14 staff who had worked that weekend but were subsequently disregarded as they had not witnessed the alleged incidents directly.  The person who made the allegation was an ex-girlfriend of the claimant and of the three that corroborated the allegation, only one was present in the workplace that day and the other was a good friend of the claimant’s ex girlfriend. In addition, access to CCTV footage that didn’t show anything was denied by the employer, until towards the end of the disciplinary process.

The EAT outlined that the claimant was entitled to have sight of every single piece of evidence that the respondent had regardless of their view on whether it was of value and that the claimant had been potentially prejudiced throughout the process at various stages by the manner in which the employer had dealt with evidence and made it available to the claimant.  The EAT also highlighted that the respondent employer had placed no importance at all on the fact that two of the statements they relied on were not even present when the alleged incidents occurred and this also was a fundamental breach of the claimant’s rights to fair procedures.

The EAT made a significant award of €30,000.

Once again the importance of following a robust investigatory and disciplinary process is essential if employers are going to be able to defend decisions to terminate employment,  not-withstanding what the substantial reasons for dismissal are.