Monday 22 October 2018

Security guard fired for switching off body camera as colleague carried out alleged unprovoked assault awarded damages

The Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission

Gordon Deegan

A security firm sacked a hospital security guard for switching off his 'Body Cam' as a colleague carried out an alleged unprovoked assault on a heroin addict in a Dublin hospital.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath stated that the security man's response to a colleague carrying out a seemingly unprovoked assault was to protect the perpetrator by turning off his Body Camera.

The security man sued for unfair dismissal and due to "wholly inadequate procedures" and a “lack of fairness" shown to the security guard in the internal disciplinary and investigation process, Ms McGrath has found that he was unfairly dismissed and has awarded him €6,500.

However, in making the award, Ms McGrath said that she was conscious that by turning off his camera in the incident, the security guard “failed his employer”.

Ms McGrath said that an assault was being carried out on a member of the public and the "best evidence" recording was unilaterally terminated.

Ms McGrath said that the security guard’s own actions in an unfolding situation demonstrated a lack of judgement as to what he, as an employed security officer, should be expected to do.

Ms McGrath stated that “only for the fact that there were wall mounted cameras in the vicinity, the full picture might never have been known to the employer”.

The Adjudication Officer stated that she accepted that the damage to reputation and the potential insurance fallout had to be primary considerations for the employer.

The security guard had been employed by the company for nine years and had a disciplinary history without incident.

In the incident, Ms McGrath reports that on November 13 last, the security guard was called to an incident where there were drug addicts "shooting up" in the public toilets of the hospital.

Ms McGrath reports: “I am of the impression that this has happened in the past.”

Up to four of the guards converged on the toilets and three unidentified individuals were found in one of the cubicles.

The three were in the process of taking or using drugs and Ms McGrath stated that that there was a very real concern that there might be dirty needles in the environs.

Following protocol, the security guard advised that he was switching his body camera on.

Ms McGrath said that she accepted that the security guard wanted to capture the situation in real time and to show that he and his colleagues were dealing with individuals that were carrying “sharpies” as they were described.

The security guard pointed his chest high camera into the cubicle to show the presence of the needles and other paraphernalia.

Within seconds however, the incident got heated as the three from the toilets became belligerent about being moved on.

The party of trespassers and the security guards moved to the door leading to the public corridor and a request was put in to call the Gardai.

Ms McGrath said that she accepts that the footage shows that one of the security guard’s colleagues “physically hit one of the three interlopers”.

The unfairly dismissed security guard was not at any time involved in a physical altercation but Ms McGrath reports “at just this point the Complainant turned off the recording device. The hit does not appear to have been in self-defence and this was not suggested to me. I heard nothing about provocation or otherwise”.

The un-named company - which has a workforce of up to 600 and has revenues in the tens of millions of euro - sacked the man over switching off his body cam during a live recording of an extremely serious workplace incident.

In the course of meetings with his employer, the security guard put forward no excuse for turning off the CCTV camera on his shoulder at the point that he did.

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