A hotelier sacked his godson and nephew after discovering that he was having an affair with his son’s wife.
The maintenance worker sued for unfair dismissal and now the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that the man was unfairly dismissed in August 2019.
Ordering the hotel to pay to the man €487.50 in compensation, adjudicator Emile Daly said she was not satisfied that the hotelier had made it known to his nephew prior to his embarking on relations with his cousin’s wife that he knew that his actions were likely to jeopardise his employment.
Ms Daly determined that “there was nothing in the complainant’s contract that forbid what he did”.
The hotelier is a director of a company that operates a number of family-run hotels.
The maintenance worker commenced his employment in February 2017. On August 15th, 2019, the director met with his nephew early in the morning along with another party and told him that they needed to talk.
The director told his nephew to get into his car and to go home.
In response, his nephew asked “has this got to do with ‘x’?” in reference to his cousin’s wife, who was separated from his cousin.
The hotel director treated this comment as being an admission of what he had suspected – and had additional evidence to support – namely that his nephew had been conducting a relationship with his son’s wife.
The maintenance worker worked alongside his cousin – who was also a maintenance worker – in the family business.
The director told his nephew that he did not like how he was treating his son and that he had no option but to go home.
The director accepted that this was a dismissal of his nephew.
He stated that given his nephew’s admission, it was no longer possible for him to keep working within the family business particularly given that he worked alongside his son.
The director accepted that his son and his wife were not living together at the time, but it was the hope of the family that they would get back together again.
In response, the maintenance worker did not deny that he had “a romantic liaison with his cousin’s wife”, although he denied that it was “a relationship”.
Evidence was heard in the case over two days at the WRC. The worker said that his cousin’s wife had told him that she and her husband had been separated for two years and because of this it was his view that it was a private matter between him and the woman.
He said it did not impact on his job, it was his choice and his private life.
He argued that given that his cousin and his wife were separated, “he didn’t believe that there was anything wrong in him going out with her”.
The man said that he wasn’t aware his cousin and his wife were trying to get back together again or that the family wanted that.
The worker contended that what he had done was not gross misconduct. He contended that there was no reference or definition of gross misconduct in his contract/ job description.
The worker contended that no fair procedures were adopted in the manner in which he was summarily dismissed.
The worker did not accept that what he did was a dismissible offence or that when he embarked upon the liaison with the woman that he thought that there was anything wrong with it.
The man accepted that he did not tell anyone about it, but that wasn’t proof of guilt, just a desire for privacy.
In her findings, Ms Daly – who ruled that all parties should not be identified – said there was no evidence that the husband – the person most impacted by the liaison – objected to the relationship or did not.
She said: “And this evidence cannot be assumed. The Complainant’s evidence was that, as far as he knew, X and Y had been separated for two years, a claim that was not contested by the Respondent.”
Ms Daly said that if the husband’s evidence had been that his marital relationship was over, that he was indifferent to what happened, his father would have no basis to object to what happened and his cousin could reasonably contend that he didn’t think his actions would put his job in jeopardy.
Ms Daly further considered that if the husband’s position was the opposite, that it was a betrayal of him by his cousin, that his actions undermined his attempts to mend his marriage and that his cousin was aware of this, then the cousin could not reasonably contend that he was unaware that his conduct put his job in jeopardy or made the continuation of his employment untenable.
The maintenance worker claimed his losses were €3,464. However, Ms Daly awarded €487.50 after finding that she was not satisfied that – given his qualifications and work experience – the maintenance worker had adequately evidenced his loss, particularly, that he had not adequately evidenced his attempts to mitigate his loss in the five weeks following his dismissal.