Builder awarded €966 for unfair dismissal after breaking colleague’s nose


A builder sacked after fighting with an apprentice and breaking his nose has been awarded €966 after the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled his employer ‘did not apply any procedures’ in dismissing him.

Martin Gilligan has lodged a complaint with the WRC against Derek Daly Construction Ltd, claiming he was unfairly dismissed on August 21, 2020.

An arbitration hearing last month was told the apprentice had just arrived on site at 8.10am that morning when the row broke out.

Giving evidence, Derek Daly said Mr Gilligan ‘made a remark to the apprentice causing him grief of a personal nature’ and the apprentice responded by pushing the complainant to the ground.

He said Mr Gilligan stood up and punched the apprentice in the face, breaking his nose.

Mr Gilligan admitted hitting his colleague but said it was a slap with an open palm.

He denied making a personal remark and said he only asked the apprentice “if he was in good shape”.

Mr Daly said there had been previous incidents between the two men whom he described as Mr Gilligan ‘bullying’ the apprentice and he was forced to intervene on one occasion and bring them to apologize.

He said he and Mr Gilligan were related and he didn’t want bad feelings between them but felt he ‘couldn’t risk having the two men on the site again in same time”.

He said he fired Mr Gilligan and gave him severance pay.

The apprentice was also made redundant but returned to work after returning to his parents and apologizing, Mr Daly added.


Mr. Gilligan told the Commission that he was seeking compensation.

Mr Daly said if a large sum was ordered it would “end the business”.

The Commission heard Mr Gilligan was already embroiled in a dispute with his employer over his rate of pay and was refusing to make blocks when the argument arose with the apprentice.

Mr Gilligan said he had broken a finger and was unable to do the job when he returned from sick leave and that as far as he was concerned he had been hired as a laborer and not to do blocks.

Mr. Daly testified that he gave Mr. Gilligan notice of termination for this two weeks before the incident.

He said that as far as he was concerned Mr Gilligan had already been sacked and his mistake was ‘not putting anything in writing’.

Complainant said Mr Daly repeatedly pushed him aside over the block issue and told him on August 18 that he would be fired if he continued to refuse, but received nothing in writing.

In her decision, adjudicating officer Janet Hughes wrote that without any documentation to support Mr. Daly’s account, she had to conclude on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Daly had only ever received a warning about his refusal to lay blocks.

“Therefore, I conclude that the only real notice of dismissal was that relating to the altercation with the apprentice,” she wrote.

But she said the disciplinary procedures followed by Mr Daly on both occasions were unfair anyway.

“There were no written terms of employment, there were no complaints or disciplinary procedures in place and none were followed. The word bullying was used more than once by Mr. Daly, but he had no policy or procedure to address this issue,” she wrote.

“Unfortunately, even if the parties are related, reinstatement or re-engagement is not a reasonable option given that they have not been able to reconcile their differences at all in the interim,” he said. she writes, adding that the only recourse she has left is compensation.

She concluded that Mr Gilligan had contributed to his dismissal for gross misconduct at “more than 50%” by provoking his colleague.

She added that Mr Gilligan had chosen to work only one day a week to preserve social benefits while waiting for work from another builder.

‘It was his choice, but Mr Daly cannot be expected to compensate him for that choice,’ Ms Hughes wrote.

She said the maximum Mr Daly could receive would be four weeks’ pay at €2,928.80, but said he was 66% responsible for his own dismissal and reduced the compensation to €966.50 €.


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