An Post worker made threat to shoot staff
Published 08/01/2010 | 05:00
A POSTAL worker terrified his colleagues at a mail centre when he threatened to bring a gun to work and shoot them all.
An Employment Appeals Tribunal heard that the threats were made by Robert Myers in Athlone, Co Westmeath -- two weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in the US.
The former postal worker said the matter was "a joke" and not intended to be taken seriously.
Mr Myers of Auburn Heights, Athlone, Co Westmeath, took a case to the tribunal claiming he had been unfairly dismissed by An Post.
In its determination yesterday the three-member tribunal said An Post was "entitled and indeed justified" in dismissing Mr Myers.
When complaints about the incident were put to Mr Myers by the company he initially denied saying that he would kill anyone but later accepted that he had mentioned "taking a gun into the building and killing people".
The threats came a fortnight after May 1, 2007, when gunman Seung-Hui Cho massacred 32 people and wounded 20 in Virginia Tech college before shooting himself.
Mr Myers insisted that the matter "was a joke and had been taken out of context". It was not meant to be taken seriously.
The determination said Mr Myers was one of 29 people working in An Post's video coding rooms when he instigated a conversation with a colleague "suggesting he was going to bring a gun to work" and shoot all his workmates.
"Graphic details were given in respect of the methods of how some of his colleagues would die and towards the end of the conversation the claimant enquired as to the number of employees working in the building as he wanted to ensure that he had enough ammunition," according to the determination.
The tribunal said it was clear that it was not a brief conversation but continued over 20 to 30 minutes and Mr Myers was taken seriously by most of his colleagues, all of whom were female except for one.
"Evidence was also given that he was asked to refrain from the conversation on several occasions by some of his colleagues, including the male co-worker, but refrained from so doing.
"Evidence was given by several of his co-workers who said that they were extremely frightened by the conversation, took the threat seriously and feared for their safety."
The tribunal said that while one or two colleagues put the conversation down to attention-seeking by Mr Myers it was clear from the evidence that the majority of the workers were "frightened and upset" by the conversation.
The tribunal said the only course of action open to An Post acting as "a prudent and reasonable employer," was to dismiss Mr Myers as it had "a specific duty of care" to employees.
Mr Myers also had a prior disciplinary record which showed that over four years he received nine verbal warnings and three written warnings.