Friday 20 September 2019

Decision to fire security man for 'hugging' woman upheld by Workplace Relations Commission

The Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission

Gordon Deegan

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld a decision by a security firm to sack a security man for ‘hugging’ a woman.

The man had sued for unfair dismissal arising out of the incident on August 9 2017 at the WRC and WRC Adjudication Officer, Jim O’Connell “found that the action of “hugging” a member of public outside the roles and responsibilities of a static Security Officer”.

Mr O’Connell said that it was a “particularly ill-conceived action especially considering the claimant did not personally know the person in question”.

The woman made a complaint to the man’s employer over the incident and the disciplinary proceedings culminated in the man’s sacking.

In the employer’s submission before the WRC, the firm pointed out that the security man admitted hugging the lady in question and this was also confirmed using CCTV footage.

The firm claimed that the actions were in breach of various company policies and procedures while also falling under a breach of the code of conduct as “Other Misconduct”.

The firm stated that the worker had an active ‘Final Written Warning’ at the time of the incident.

The employer pointed out that the complainant was awarded the right of appeal which upheld the decision to dismiss him.

The security man was represented by SIPTU in the case and the union argued that fair procedure was not offered to the security man and therefore the dismissal should be deemed unfair.

SIPTU stated that the company did not interview the member of public who made the complaint and instead the employer acted on information received through a third party which should be considered hearsay.

SIPTU also pointed out that the security man was not offered the right of cross examination of the originator of the complaint.

In his findings, Mr O’Connell found that the security man ‘hugged’ the originator of the complaint but that the security man stated that the hug was at the woman’s request.

Mr O’Connell stated: “I find that the complainant did not personally know the person in question but recognised her as a regular visitor to the area.”

Mr O’Connell also found that the worker was not offered the opportunity to cross examine his accuser but was awarded the opportunity to review the CCTV footage of the time in question.

Mr O’Connell said that he found the uncontested evidence is that physical contact occurred between the complainant and a member of the public during an interaction and that the member of public later made a complaint regarding the interaction.

The security man didn’t leave the WRC empty handed however. The man was dismissed without payment of notice.

SIPTU successfully argued that company procedures dictate that this can be only be applied in cases of gross misconduct and this was a case classified by the firm as ‘other misconduct’.

As a result, Mr O’Connell has ordered the employer to pay the man €3,357 in notice payments.

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