'breach of trust' | 

Alcoholic Supervalu manager who was sacked after he drank himself ‘unconscious’ on premises awarded €40k

WRC says Employment Equality Act’s requirements were ‘paramount’, even in the circumstances of a breach of trust

Stock image© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stephen BourkeIndependent.ie

A supermarket has been ordered to pay nearly €40,000 for sacking an alcoholic manager who drank himself “comatose” on vodka on the premises when his employers went away to a wedding.

The supermarket’s owners called it an “incalculable” breach of trust which meant the manager had broken promises made after similar behaviour the previous year.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found the manager had been discriminatorily sacked because he was an alcoholic, and that in the absence of precedent in the area, it could not accept the breach of trust as a defence for discrimination.

The tribunal upheld Eamon Murphy’s complaint against Michael Connolly & Sons Ltd, which trades as Connolly’s Supervalu in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.

The tribunal was told there had been a series of “alcoholic-related issues” with Mr Murphy in 2019 leading up to a “serious incident at work” four days before Christmas 2019.

He was declared fit to work in January 2020 after seeing the company doctor, where he agreed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and for there to be “no repeat of the alcoholic incidents”, the WRC heard.

In October of the same year, the Connolly family went away for a weekend to attend their daughter’s wedding, leaving Mr Murphy in sole charge of the supermarket, said Helen Barry of Simplify HR, who appeared for the employer.

On Saturday October 24, Ms Barry said, the complainant brought a “considerable volume of alcohol” to work.

He drank the vodka on the premises “to such an extent that he had become completely unconscious and seriously alarmed his immediate colleagues to his wellbeing”.

Mr Murphy had to be brought home by his fellow workers, she said.

The tribunal was told Mr Murphy informed his employer he would go directly into a residential addiction course three days after the incident.

In his evidence, Mr Murphy expressed remorse for what happened and said he thought the previous year he could “resolve his alcohol issues largely on his own”.

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