Friday 24 January 2020

'Wakey wakey' - engineer caught napping in meeting 'gave boss the finger and went back to sleep'

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Darragh McDonagh

A service engineer was sacked by a plant-hire business after making a single-fingered gesture at his boss for waking him in the middle of a work meeting - and then going back to sleep.

An adjudication hearing of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard that the firm's technical manager noticed that the service engineer had fallen asleep during a meeting in June 2016.

He said "wakey wakey" in an effort to rouse the employee, who responded by opening his eyes and giving him "the finger", before closing his eyes again.

There was shock and silence in the room following the gesture, it was claimed.

The service engineer was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of the incident.

The branch manager told the hearing that not dismissing the employee would have led to "chaos, with no discipline".

The sacked worker brought a complaint to the WRC for unfair dismissal.

In evidence, he said that the branch manager had spoken over him at the meeting and he had felt disrespected.

He closed his eyes and lowered his head in response to this slight, but he had not been asleep and was still listening.

He admitted making a rude gesture but had not seen this as a serious matter and said the company's response had been disproportionate.

He had previously raised concerns about the payment of overtime, and contended that these concerns had constituted a verbal protected disclosure to his employer in May 2016.

He claimed that the branch manager had reacted angrily to the disclosure and that this had been the reason for his dismissal.

The company denied that there had been a protected disclosure and that the complainant's concerns were merely "grievances", which had no bearing on the dismissal.

WRC adjudication officer Kevin Baneham said that the complainant had worked for the business for less than the 12 months typically required in order to advance a complaint of unfair dismissal.

However, a complaint was still possible in the event that the dismissal was "wholly or mainly" due to the fact that the ex-employee had made a protected disclosure.

In his decision, Mr Baneham found that the issues raised by the complainant in relation to overtime did not amount to a protected disclosure.

He was therefore precluded from advancing the complaint as a result of having less than the requisite 12 months' service, and the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act did not succeed.

Both parties to the adjudication hearing were anonymised in the decision.

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