Builder who broke colleague’s nose in a fight wins unfair dismissal claim

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Who would be an employer?

A construction worker who broke a colleague’s nose in a fight has just won an unfair dismissal claim against the employer.

The amount of money awarded was relatively small: €966. But if paying this money sticks in the craw of the employer, Derek Daly Construction Limited, I can understand.

The background to the case is that Mark Gilligan made a comment to an apprentice of a personal nature. The apprentice pushed Gilligan to the ground. Gilligan then struck the apprentice and broke his nose.

Gilligan accepts he struct the apprentice. He denies making the personal remark.

Derek Daly gave evidence of a bad relationship between the two men. He said Gilligan bullied the apprentice.

Daly told the WRC that he was related to Gilligan but could not afford any further aggravation on the site. He dismissed Gilligan and gave him notice pay.

Gilligan had been in a dispute with Daly about laying blocks. He refused to do so and Daly had spoken to him a number of times about this. He told him if he continued to refuse he would be fired. He did not put anything in writing, however.

WRC decision

The Adjudication Officer, Janet Hughes, held that the disciplinary procedures followed by Daly on both of these occasions were lacking and unfair.

She also noted that even though the word ‘bullying’ was used by Daly in evidence there was no anti bullying, grievance or disciplinary procedures in the workplace.

She determined that Gilligan was unfairly dismissed but that he was partly responsible for the dismissal by his own conduct in provoking the apprentice. He had also chosen to work just one day per week to preserve his social welfare entitlements.

She held that he was 66% responsible for his own dismissal and reduced his award from €2,928.80 (4 weeks wages) to €966.50.

Takeaway for employers

Have employment procedures and/or a staff handbook in the workplace. It will be extremely difficult to defend any claim against you if you do not have something as basic as a grievance or disciplinary or dignity at work procedure.

My staff handbook will cover you for this. Take a look at it here.