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Beautician Unfairly Dismissed After Alleged Violent Behaviour

This week we look at a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case in which a beautician was found to have been unfairly dismissed after her employer alleged that she engaged in "violent behaviour". Our Adrian Twomey highlights the key points to note in the case of O'Neill v Milan Professional Limited, ADJ-00033234.

The Complainant, Ms Zita O'Neill, was a Beauty Consultant who commenced employment with Milan Professional Limited t/a L'Ombre Hair & Beauty in Crumlin on 15 May 2018. She was paid a weekly wage of €416 and worked 32 hours per week.

The Complainant gave evidence that she was required to deal with two clients at the one time on the morning of 10 September 2020 due to a double-booking. She tried to discuss the issue with the Salon Manager who allegedly spoke over her. It appears that the exchange became very heated and Ms O'Neill seems to have used some foul language. The employer alleged that she had engaged in "violent behaviour" but the General Manager admitted that she had not witnessed any such behaviour by Ms O'Neill on the date in question.

At the end of the day, Ms O'Neill was called into the office by the Duty Manager and Area Manager. They told her that the owner of the company, who was not present at the meeting, had directed that they suspend her. She was suspended without pay for ten days.

The Area Manager called Ms O'Neill on 16 September 2020 and alleged that she had performed treatments for two staff members on the previous 3 September. It was alleged that the staff members had not paid for the treatments. The Complainant was, it appears, dismissed in the course of the telephone call in question.

Ms O'Neill submitted a complaint of unfair dismissal to the WRC in December 2020. The case was heard on 5 July 2022 and a decision issued on 1 November 2022. In that decision, the Adjudication Officer paid particular attention to the failure of the employer to follow fair procedures, stating:

"The Complainant was not given the opportunity to state her case. The Complainant was not afforded the right to representation at all meetings under the disciplinary procedure, including at investigation stage. No evidence from the Complainant was considered, particularly the Complainant’s right to be heard and put forward her case before any decision was made or action taken. Ms Gina Cannon, General Manager was not present at the disciplinary meeting but she confirmed she wrote the letter to confirm her termination."

The Adjudication Officer also went on to note that a decision to dismiss was not within the band of reasonable decisions that might have been considered by a reasonable employer in light of the allegations and incidents that had occurred.

Ms O'Neill was awarded €10,891 (11 months' salary) for unfair dismissal and €907.63 for a breach of the Payment of Wages Act in relation to the unpaid suspension. She was awarded a further €907.63 because she did not receive the two weeks' notice to which she was entitled.

Those who require advice in relation to employment law cases or who need representation before the WRC or Labour Court can contact our Adrian Twomey. We would encourage employers to take advice before implementing dismissals.


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