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lost claim Cocaine-addicted porter who ‘dressed up as a dinosaur’ in hospital loses unfair dismissal action

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne found the dismissal was reasonable, proportionate and not unfair.





A cocaine addict who dressed up as a dinosaur while working as a porter at a hospital has lost his unfair dismissal action.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Catherine Byrne found the dismissal was reasonable, proportionate and not unfair.

The porter first came to the negative notice of his hospital bosses after a clinical nurse manager reported that on April 11, 2019, he was distracting staff from getting on with their work, had dressed up as a dinosaur and had disrupted the evening drug administration round.

Ms Byrne said the facts as outlined by the hospital concerning the incident had not been contradicted.

A representative for the un-named hospital told the WRC hearing the porter, on the date, was unable to perform his duties due to being under the influence of alcohol, unprescribed drugs or the misuse of prescribed medicine.

The porter was referred to a rehab programme after the hospital’s Occupational Health Consultant (OHC) confirmed he tested positive for cocaine and benzodiazepine and had an addiction to cocaine and alcohol.

Four days after the ‘dinosaur’ incident, on April 15 2019, at the first consultation, the OHC concluded the porter was suffering from depression and anxiety.

However, the porter disagreed with the OHC’s recommendation that he attend a rehab programme.

A representative for the hospital told the WRC hearing the man failed to engage with management after disagreeing with the OHC recommendation.

The hospital representative said despite numerous attempts to contact him, the porter did not make any contact with management until he was dismissed in September 2019.

The hospital said the man, employed there since 2013, was dismissed for gross misconduct for failing to perform his job due to being under the influence of unprescribed drugs or prescribed medicine and for failing to engage with management about his ongoing absence.

The hospital said it had no option but to terminate the porter’s employment due to his failure to engage with them, his failure to undertake a rehabilitation programme and his failure to fulfil the terms of his contract.

The hospital said it has an intoxicants policy in place where the misuse of drugs or alcohol by an employee which impairs their ability to do their work may result in disciplinary action up to dismissal.

The hospital said an employee with an addiction problem will be encouraged to seek help; however, failure to continue with treatment or to respond to treatment may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

The hospital said the worker had an obligation to get treatment to deal with his addictions.

In her findings, Ms Byrne said it is apparent the porter was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of his failure to keep in touch with his employer during an absence of 20 weeks, breaches of the absence policy regarding medical certificates and his refusal to follow the advice of the OHC and get treatment for his addictions

It was argued on behalf of the porter that the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate, as he had no disciplinary record prior.

On behalf of the porter, SIPTU argued the hospital took no account of mitigating circumstances and that he was suffering from depression, his partner was expecting a baby and they had lost their accommodation and had to move in with his parents.

Ms Byrne said she has taken account of these mitigating circumstances.

“It is clear to me that the complainant was not dismissed because he has a drug and alcohol problem, but because he failed to engage with his employer over a period of 20 weeks and to get support and return to work,” she said.

Ms Byrne said it was her view that, if he had cooperated with his employer from early on, or even from June 2019, when the OHC advised him to get treatment, he could have prevented his dismissal.

Ms Byrne said: “While I accept that the domestic and health issues he had to deal with were stressful and challenging, one of the positive things in his life was his job.”

Ms Byrne said she was confident “that, if he had kept in touch with his employer, with the support of SIPTU, he would have been treated with compassion”.

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