Thursday 13 December 2018

Hotel manager sacked after double-booking wedding while drinking with bride's father awarded €15,000

Stock photo
Stock photo

Gordon Deegan

An under-the-influence hotel General Manager (GM) inadvertently double-booked a wedding with a golf tour as he was drinking with the bride’s father when the booking was made.

That was one of the disputed allegations made against the GM in the case where a Co Monaghan hotel owner hired a private investigator to determine the scale of the GM’s drinking during work hours and the hotel sacked the GM in July 2017 on foot of the investigator's report.

The GM sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld his claim after finding that the hotel’s procedures in sacking him were flawed.

The WRC assessed the GM’s loss to be €50,000 but has awarded him the reduced amount of €15,000 after finding that his contribution to his dismissal was 70pc.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Emile Daly also found that on the balance of probabilities, the GM drank alcohol while on duty. She said: “This was inappropriate conduct and one that no hotel management could have tolerated.”

Ms Daly said that she was not persuaded by the GM’s own evidence that he did not drink alcohol while working.

At the hearing, details of the scale of the GM’s drinking while at work were relayed by a number of witnesses - all of this evidence was strongly disputed by the GM who said that “he does not have nor did he ever have a drink problem”.

Along with the wedding/golf tour double booking, the hotel’s former operations manager (OP) also stated that the GM drank while at work where he would drink wine in the restaurant with his dinner and he drank pints of beer in the bar afterwards.

He said that on other occasions the bar staff had to do the cashing up at the end of the night because the GM was unable to due to alcohol consumption.

The OP said that often the GM smelled of alcohol and this was apparent to anyone including guests.

Another witness, a night porter said that he saw the GM urinating into a kitchen sink behind the bar area. The night porter gave evidence that at the end of most evenings the GM would be very drunk.

The night porter stated that the GM would be staggering about and on several occasions the witness had to accompany the GM up to his hotel bedroom to help him carry his belongings and to also bring up a pint of beer with a cup of tea.

The night porter’s evidence was denied by the GM and in her findings, WRC Adjudication Officer, Emile Daly said that she was discounting the evidence of any hotel witness the GM had a prior disagreement with - this includes the evidence of the night porter  who the GM told the hearing had an axe to grind with.

The GM had commenced as a hotel GM in 1988. He had part-owned the hotel through a company which into receivership during the economic downturn and he continued to work as GM.

In a bid to assist him, the new hotel owner paid for the GM to go on a five star holiday to Dubai as the GM was going through a stressful time.

However, on his return, the GM is alleged to have continued to drink and the hotel appointed a private investigator to assess the scale of the GM’s drinking while at work in March 2017. This report was furnished to the hotel in May 2017.

In response, the GM went to the High Court to seek an injunction and the hotel provided undertakings to the High Court that the contents and findings of the Independent Investigator would not be relied upon by the hotel to further the disciplinary process.

The GM was sacked in July 2017 and the MD who is also co-owner of the hotel told the hearing that he did in fact rely on the investigator’s findings to dismiss the GM.

In her findings, WRC Adjudication Officer, Emile Daly found that the decision to dismiss the GM was flawed.

Ms Daly found that “at no stage was the GM given an opportunity, other than under the investigation process -which was conceded to be flawed - to address specific allegations of misconduct – namely drinking alcohol while on duty”.

In his evidence, the GM denied that he was ever drunk on the job -  he accepted that he drank alcohol but not during work hours. The GM produced three witnesses who had worked at the hotel and never saw him intoxicated.

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