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Party fracas cost courtesy driver his job

A CONFRONTATION at a Christmas party between a hotel courtesy driver and a hotel barman over a cigarette has cost one well-known Dublin hotel €25,000.

This follows the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ruling that Bewley's Hotel at Dublin Airport must pay €25,000 to sacked courtesy driver, John Graham.

The hotel must pay Mr Graham after the EAT ruled that he was unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct in relation to the confrontation.

The EAT noted that Mr Graham - who worked at the hotel since 2006 - was the only employee disciplined following the incident.

Staff at Bewley's Hotel, Dublin Airport held their Christmas party at the Red Cow complex on January 5, 2012.

In evidence, Mr Graham said that while in the smoking area at the Christmas Party, he felt his hand burning and turned to see the unnamed barman with a cigarette.

Mr Graham described the burning as if the barman was stubbing out the cigarette on his hand.

Mr Graham said that he sought an apology which he didn't receive and he charged at the barman.

Pushing between the two followed and a bystander was knocked over. Mr Graham was also accused of assaulting a security guard who approached him after the incident.

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Mr Graham said that due to his state of mind he was not aware the man who approached him was a security officer and left soon after.

In his evidence, the barman denied provoking Mr Graham and maintains that if he was aware that his cigarette had accidentally burned Mr Graham he would have apologised.

The barman accepts that in the confrontation that followed "there was two of us in it" and confirmed that he was not disciplined.

At a meeting with the hotel firm, Mr Graham challenged the statements of the barman and the security man.

After the incident, a director of the hotel firm showed Mr Graham CCTV footage of the incident and told him to resign or he would be fired.

Mr Graham was fired for engaging in deliberate acts of violence and threatening behaviour towards fellow employees.

The hotel stated that as Mr Graham had engaged in violent behaviour no lesser sanction could be considered.

In its ruling, the EAT found that the hotel accepted that the investigation and procedure that followed the incident, leading to Mr Graham's dismissal was not perfect.

Awarding Mr Graham €25,000, the EAT stated: "The Tribunal do not condone violence in the workplace. However it is noted that Mr Graham was the only employee disciplined following the incident on the 5th January at the staff Christmas party. It must be stated that the claimant contributed to his dismissal by his own behaviour on the night."

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