A CHEF was sacked from his job at Dublin's Gresham Hotel for allegedly headbutting a work colleague after a Christmas party.
Hichem Gharbi (37) was returning from the party on a bus organised and paid for by the city centre hotel in January 2010.
Gresham bosses laid on the festive outing at Roganstown Golf and Country Club in Swords, and had organised transport to bring staff back into the city.
But, en route, Mr Gharbi, from Blackhall Square, Dublin 7, got into a row with trainee manager David Murphy over an issue to do with a group who were smoking at the back of the bus. Neither man was with the group, but Mr Murphy got into a discussion with Mr Gharbi, who was a shop steward with trade union Siptu, over the incident.
The incident turned into a fracas and Mr Gharbi allegedly headbutted Mr Murphy.
An Employment Appeals Tribunal heard yesterday that the Gresham Hotel deemed the incident to be work-related because it occurred following an event paid for by the hotel, and on a bus laid on by management.
However, Paul Henry, with Siptu's membership information and support centre representing Mr Gharbi, disputed the fact that Mr Murphy was headbutted. He said they accepted there was a "clash of heads", but Mr Gharbi did not deliberately set out to assault Mr Murphy in the incident.
IBEC industrial relations executive Kerry Molyneaux, representing the Gresham, accused Mr Gharbi of "physically and violently" assaulting a colleague.
She said he was "dismissed for gross misconduct because of the unprovoked and serious nature of the incident".
Ms Molyneaux said Mr Murphy had suffered damage to his teeth as a result of the incident
She claimed the decision reached by the hotel to sack Mr Gharbi was fair and reasonable.
However, Mr Henry said the incident was not unprovoked.
Mr Henry also said that following the incident, Mr Gharbi was suspended, but Mr Murphy was only suspended after Siptu stepped in.
He said the sacking was disproportionate and that Mr Gharbi had an exemplary record, was a loyal employee and had the trust of the hotel directors.
Mr Gharbi, who is originally from Tunisia and has been in Ireland since 1997, told the tribunal he had looked for work since he was dismissed, but had not received any interviews.
He said he never asked the Gresham for a reference, although the hotel told the tribunal they would have given him a factual reference, stating how long he worked for them and what he did.
A decision from the Tribunal on the case is expected at a later date.