Wetherspoons bar worker who claimed she had to quit over violence loses constructive dismissal case


A bar worker who said she had no choice but to quit over the violence at a Cork City Wetherspoons two years ago has lost her right to a constructive dismissal.

He told the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), among other incidents of violence and aggression at the pub, that her apron was spattered with the manager on duty’s blood as she went to provide first aid after he was shot by a customer with a broken gingglas in March had been stabbed in 2020.

Leanne McGrath’s complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 against JD Wetherspoon Ltd, trading as Linen Weaver, Paul Street, Cork City, was dismissed by the WRC in a decision published this morning.

Ms McGrath said there had been “daily difficulties” at the bar due to an “unreasonable” lack of security staff.

She said she was not trained in dealing with violence and aggression.

She described a series of incidents, including verbal abuse from a drunk customer in July 2019, a bathroom left “in a mess with excrement” in August of that year, and another “aggressive and violent” customer that prompted her to commit suicide to remove from a front-of-house position and moved to the kitchen as of January 2020.

But in March of that year, she was called to help when the manager on duty was stabbed by a customer, she said.

She provided first aid and called gardaí and an ambulance, WRC was told, and recalled finding blood on her apron.

The armed Gardaí had arrived at the scene of the accident within five minutes, the WRC was told.

Ms McGrath said there were no security guards on duty at the time and that the area manager’s response was “aggressive and rude”.

She said she was “disturbed” by the incident and has taken two weeks’ paid leave and used three of the four counseling sessions the company offers.

Ms McGrath said she “tried to resolve issues on a number of occasions but was unsuccessful”.

She said her resignation was involuntary “as her safety concerns were not addressed”.

Denise Mulcahy BL, representing the complainant, submitted that her client “was forced to leave her position as it had become untenable for her”.

“Her mental health was compromised and she saw no prospect of any real improvement,” the attorney added, adding that her client had lost confidence in the company’s human resources procedures when she resigned.

The company’s area manager, referred to as Mr A in the decision, said he carried out a risk assessment of the bar in November 2019 and security staff are concentrated on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

He said there had been 12 incidents from 2018 to 2019, which he said was not unusual.

He said he called Ms McGrath the night of the stabbing in March and denied having “chastised” her.

Mr A said a new risk assessment after the glass attack brought in more door staff and organized training for staff on how to deal with drunk guests.

He “never refused to take security measures,” he said, adding that Ms McGrath “did not request complete security.”

Ms McGrath was offered support before Covid-19-related layoffs “took over” when the pandemic reached Ireland, he said.

The victim of the March 2020 attack, named only Mr Z. in the decision, also testified and told the court that he was still working in the bar and that security measures there had improved since the incident.

He said personal alerts were issued to staff along with body cameras and door staff were put on duty seven days a week by February 2022.

Under cross-examination, he said the company responded “responsibly” to his stabbing.

Kevin Bell BL, acting for JD Wetherspoon, argued the plaintiff’s resignation was voluntary and the incident was handled “supportively” by the company.

Adjudicating officer Patsy Doyle wrote that she could not identify any “last straw” for the complainant, nor that the situation at the linen weaver aggravated a medical condition or resulted in any other signs of distress for Ms McGrath.

Ms Doyle accepted that the complainant had moved away from her front-of-house role because “challenging customers and her drug and alcohol habits” were taking their toll – but also noted that Ms McGrath accepted that security at the bar was increased in the wake of the glassing incident.

There was no medical evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and the complainant had confirmed that she was “100 per cent fit to look for work,” Ms Doyle added.

“I have not encountered any abusive conduct by the defendant… [which] was in the process of taking appropriate steps to normalize the complainant’s employment following the March 2020 attack,” Ms. Doyle noted.

She found that Ms. McGrath resigned voluntarily, “without giving the company time or space to complete the support efforts that began in 2019,” and dismissed the wrongful termination complaint.

A second factual application for dismissal from another worker at the same location is awaiting decision. Wetherspoons bar worker who claimed she had to quit over violence loses constructive dismissal case

Fry Electronics Team

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