Wetherspoons bar worker who claimed she had to quit due to level of violence loses constructive dismissal case

Wetherspoons bar worker who claimed she had to quit due to level of violence loses constructive dismissal case

A bar worker who said she felt she had no choice but to quit because of the level of violence at a Wetherspoons in Cork City two years ago has lost her claim for constructive dismissal.

he told the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) among other incidents of violence and aggression at the pub, her apron was splattered with the duty manager’s blood when she went to give first aid after he was stabbed by a customer wielding a broken gin glass in March 2020.

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

Ms McGrath gave evidence that there were “daily difficulties” at the bar because of an “inappropriate” lack of security staff.

She said she was not trained in the management of violence and aggression.

She described a number of incidents, including receiving verbal abuse from a drunk customer in July 2019, a bathroom left “in disarray with excrement” in August that year, and another “aggressive and violent” customer that prompted her to move away from a front -of-house position and moved to working in the kitchen form January 2020.

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

She gave first aid and phoned for gardaí and an ambulance, the WRC was told, and remembered finding blood on her apron.

Armed gardaí had come to the scene inside five minutes, the WRC was told.

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

She said she was “distraught” by the incident and took two weeks’ leave with pay and used three of the four counseling sessions offered by the company.

Ms McGrath said she had “tried to deal with issues on multiple occasions but was unsuccessful”.

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

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

“Her mental health was affected and she did not perceive that there was any prospect of real improvement,” counsel submitted, adding that her client had lost faith in the company’s HR procedures by the time she resigned.

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

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

He said he had phoned Ms McGrath on the night of the March stabbing and denied that he “chastised” her.

Mr A said a new risk assessment after the glass attack saw more door staff brought in and training organized for staff on handling drunk bosses.

He had “never refused to undertake security measures”, he said, adding that Ms McGrath “did not request full security”.

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

The victim of the March 2020 attack, named in the decision only as Mr Z, also gave evidence, telling the tribunal that he still worked at the bar and that security measures there had improved since the incident.

He said personal alarms were issued to staff, along with body cameras, and that door staff were rostered across all seven days of the week up to February 2022.

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

Kevin Bell BL, who appeared for JD Wetherspoon, argued the claimant’s resignation was voluntary and that the incident had been “managed supportively” by the firm.

Adjudicating officer Patsy Doyle wrote that she had been unable to identify a “last straw moment” for the complainant, nor that the situation at the Linen Weaver had exacerbated a medical condition or led to any other signs of pressure for Ms McGrath.

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

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

“I have not identified offending conduct from the respondent… [which] was in the process of taking appropriate steps to normalize the complainant’s employment post the March 2020 attack,” Ms Doyle found.

She found Ms McGrath quit on a voluntary basis “without giving the company time and space to conclude the supportive measures commenced from 2019” and dismissed the complaint of unfair dismissal.

A second constructive dismissal claim by another worker at the same premises is awaiting decision.

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