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Retail manager who made derogatory remark at work party loses unfair dismissal bid

The man made a derogatory remark towards another employee at an out-of-hours work gathering.

Image: Shutterstock/sebra

THE WORKPLACE RELATIONS Commission (WRC) has upheld a decision by a retailer to sack a manager over a derogatory remark the man made about a colleague at a going away party.

In the case, a colleague of the man sacked complained to management over the derogatory comment at the leaving party.

The retailer found that the remark – the details of which are not disclosed by the WRC – breached the company’s ‘dignity at work’ policy and sacked the man.

In the case, the WRC adjudication officer said that if the dignity at work policy is to mean anything, the company had no choice but to sack the man and found that the dismissal was fair.

The adjudication officer said the man sacked held a senior position as a manager and should have known better.

The man was suing for unfair dismissal and in his case he stated that the leaving party was an out-of-hours meeting organised by staff.

The senior manager said that the remark was made in the context of an ongoing slagging culture among the staff of the company.

He stated that the said “culture” was thriving and vibrant not only out of hours but more importantly during normal working hours.

He said: “Insulting and pejorative words related to sexual orientation, ethnic origin or mental qualities were used at the time between staff members of all levels on a daily basis without anyone taking insult.”

He pointed out that the said outing was not an associated event in the course of employment; was not organised or paid for by the firm and nor was it an official “work outing”.

The manager stated that the alleged behaviour was an isolated incident.

The man was dismissed by letter on 11 March last year following an investigation into a complaint that he had breached the company’s policy on dignity and respect in the workplace.

He said that his dismissal letter did not explain why “dismissal was the most appropriate sanction”.

The firm stated that all staff were trained in this policy and are aware of it.

The company stated that the dismissal was a reasonable response in the circumstances.

The adjudication officer said that the whole purpose of a dignity at work policy is to curtail a slagging culture and to ensure it does not get out of hand.

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Gordon Deegan

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