A former Ryanair fleet maintenance engineer who was sacked for absenteeism and gross misconduct was told to dress warmly and carry an umbrella to work to avoid future illness, an Employment Appeals Tribunal has been told.
William Graham (62), from Rush, Co Dublin, claims the Dublin-based airline unfairly dismissed him from his job as maintenance co-ordinator at the company's headquarters at Dublin Airport in August 2010.
On the first day of hearings into his claim, the tribunal heard that Mr Graham was absent from work for 74 days in 2008 for medical reasons, including respiratory and viral infections, for which he was able to provide medical certificates in all but five cases in which he rang in sick complaining of a head cold.
Although it was accepted by Ryanair management that Mr Graham's illness was genuine, he was summoned to a meeting with the company's personnel manager, Lorna Reynolds, in which he was told that his absences were "above average".
He was told he needed to improve his attendance rate due to the cost of overtime and the inconvenience to other staff that his illness was causing, the tribunal heard.
During the meeting on December 2, 2009, Mr Graham said that he was prone to colds and flu and had to walk "a long way" from the staff carpark to the Ryanair hangar, which he believed was contributing to his health problems.
Ms Reynolds testified that she "suggested to Mr Graham that he should wear warmer clothes and carry an umbrella if he wanted to avoid getting cold and wet" during his walk from the car park to the hangar.
She testified that Mr Graham was subsequently issued with a formal written warning about his absences on December 7, 2009.
When Mr Graham missed another nine days of work due to illness in 2010, he was issued with a second and final written warning "to alert him that his attendance wasn't acceptable and he could be dismissed", Ms Reynolds said.
Mr Graham was then issued a letter of dismissal on August 16, 2010, following a joint decision by herself and Mr Graham's former manager, Gavin Malone, after Mr Graham was cited for "gross misconduct" for three subsequent breaches of company policy, Ms Reynolds said. They included being caught twice by managers smoking in a prohibited area and ending a shift 15 minutes early without leave.
The hearing continues today.