Restaurant boss illegally docked chef's pay after shutter incident
A restaurant owner who vowed to leave “backwards” Belfast unlawfully took money from a staff member’s wages in a row over damaged shutters.
Emma Bricknell, who owns the popular city centre bistro Made In Belfast, accused senior sous chef Michael Patton of deliberately causing the damage in an incident in April this year.
The Englishwoman, who called Northern Ireland a “laughing stock” over its poor transport links, docked £501 (€582) from Mr Patton’s wages to cover the cost of the repair work, saying he did it “maliciously”.
Mr Patton took a tribunal case against Blondtrepeneur Ltd, trading as Made In Belfast, of which Ms Bricknell is the sole director.
Employment Judge Neil Drennan ruled she had done so unlawfully saying there was no concrete evidence that Mr Patton was responsible for the damage.
The tribunal was told that on the evening of April 1, Mr Patton was checking the number of diners that had been served when he noticed the shutters start to open.
Thinking he had accidentally triggered the shutter fob in his pocket, he pressed the button to bring them down again.
A manager came in and alerted him that an employee’s bicycle had become stuck under the shutters, unknown to Mr Patton.
The manager asked him if he had operated the shutters which he admitted to doing. After seeing the bike wasn’t damaged Mr Patton went back into the kitchen.
Mr Patton told the tribunal he wasn’t aware that damage had been caused to the shutters until he returned to work on April 4.
He was then told that the owner, Ms Bricknell, was blaming him for causing the damage and in a text message conversation she accused him of acting with malicious intent and said he would have to pay for it.
A manager told Mr Patton he was now barred from the premises and not required to work out his notice. He had intended to leave on April 11 having worked there for three years.
A human resources consultant carried out an investigation and three other employees said they thought Mr Patton opened the shutters as a practical joke and that he may have been drinking alcohol.
Despite his denials, the investigator decided that he had been drinking alcohol that evening but that he had not caused the damage deliberately.
Judge Drennan said that the evidence gathered had not been properly tested and Ms Bricknell didn’t give Mr Patton a chance to look at the report or to challenge the conclusions.
The judge ordered that Mr Patton be paid the £501.60 that was taken from him.
In January last year Ms Bricknell vowed to leave Northern Ireland for Ibiza due to licensing law red tape, social attitudes and lack of transport links to Europe and beyond. “We are a laughing stock to the rest of the UK and the Republic,” she fumed.
“It’s just beaten the life out of me. You can’t move a licence, you can’t get a bar licence.
“Politicians are just useless and you just need to dissolve Stormont and put Dublin or London in charge.”
At time of going to press, Ms Bricknell was still living in Northern Ireland.
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