Many valuable lessons for business owners can be taken from the case below that appeared before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) recently. At John A Sinnott Solicitors, we always stress to business owners the importance of having procedures in place, communicating these procedures and documenting everything.
Valuable lessons here also for anyone who posts online reviews – anything published online is not just a throwaway comment!
Source: Irish Times, September 2018
A restaurant has been ordered to pay €2,000 to a former employee who was sacked after a customer posted a negative review on TripAdvisor noting that “the red-haired waitress was abrupt”.
The waitress took an unfair dismissal case at the WRC which upheld her claim after the boss at the restaurant said he accepted the woman’s version of events.
The boss said he also received two other complaints from customers about the woman as well as twenty complaints from other staff. He accepted that he did not inform the waitress of these other complaints when dismissing her.
WRC adjudication officer Máire Mulcahy said the use of the TripAdvisor comment and twenty other alleged complaints “is not far short of mob rule in the workplace” when the waitress was not offered the opportunity to examine the truthfulness of them. The woman was dismissed on October 2nd last.
Ms Mulcahy said the ‘vox-pop’ type comment posted on TripAdvisor about the red-haired waitress being abrupt, which the restaurant used as the reason to dismiss the woman, was “very far removed” from the concept of substantial grounds as required under the Unfair Dismissal Act.
“There was no disciplinary procedure in the workplace. There was no process,” Ms Mulcahy said. “No advance notice, no examination of the alleged complaints, no opportunity to be accompanied at the meeting which resulted in her dismissal, or no right of appeal was afforded to the complainant.”
The waitress told the WRC that she believes the reason for her dismissal was because she offered support to the boss’s then partner during the break- up of their relationship. The restaurant boss has since apologised to the waitress for his behaviour, the WRC report notes.
In her evidence, the waitress said she had received no previous indication of customer or management dissatisfaction with her work. She said she was not given an opportunity to respond or to appeal the decision to dismiss her and was offered pay for her minimum notice period on the condition that she sign a statement saying she would take no further action. She refused to do this.
Was she treated fairly? Clearly not. Basic fair procedures would have avoided this problem.