Brennan’s Bread Bakeries has been ordered to pay a worker €15,000 after it was found to have “serious defects” in being fired for breaching its no-smoking policy – which the company says risked “fire, explosion and death”, reports RTE.
Darren Kiernan was awarded compensation in a Workplace Relations Board decision released today regarding his complaint under the Unfair Dismissal Act of 1977 against Joseph Brennan Bakeries.
Witnesses from the bakery’s management told the court that Mr Kiernan had committed serious misconduct by breaching his “absolute requirement” to completely ban smoking on the bakery’s premises, except in a designated area, because the premises held stocks combustible materials, including flour and diesel.
On July 11, 2021, Mr Kiernan was caught on video cameras smoking in his van in the parking lot of the bakery, just ’20 metres’ from a diesel tank and ’75 metres’ from the flour silos of the bakery, the court said.
In his statement, Mr Kiernan said he had been given permission by bakery site manager Trevor Glavin to smoke in his private van due to Covid-19 concerns that the designated smoking hut could become too crowded.
The complainant said he ‘admitted’ when shown CCTV footage as he never thought there was a risk of dismissal. At a hearing in January, he told WRC he had thought after the fact that he had been “targeted” because of the positioning of the cameras.
Mr Kiernan said he did not believe his actions were dangerous, but admitted when questioned that he was aware of at least three other workers who had been fired for breaching the anti-corruption policy.
The bakery’s director of operations, James Yarr, told the WRC he heard Mr Kiernan’s call asking for the permit, but concluded Mr Glavin had “no reason to lie”.
“There was never permission given before,” Mr Yarr added, reports RTER.
“There is a serious risk of fire, explosion and death if there is an ignition source at the wrong place,” Mr Yarr continued, adding that sacking Mr Kiernan was “proportionate in the circumstances”, reports RTE.
In his decision, sentencing officer David James Murphy wrote that he accepted the bakery’s total smoking ban outside the designated area, on pain of dismissal, was “within the band of reasonableness”.
However, the adjudicator wrote that while the company had evidence that Mr. Kiernan had smoked outside the designated area, it had not “properly” verified the complainant’s stated defence that he had the permission from the site manager.
It would have been “a serious derogation from company policy” and likely “serious misconduct” on the part of the site manager to grant such permission, Mr Murphy wrote, reports RTE.
This forced the company’s investigator, Mr. Whelan, to make a finding “against his subordinate or superior in the organization”, Mr. Murphy wrote, adding that beyond that point, the investigator “should not have continued”.
“I do not make this finding in any way suggesting that Mr Whelan was in any way dishonest in the course of the investigation, but that he was put in a position by the respondent which [he] ought not to have been,” Mr Murphy wrote, reports RTE.
Tell us your thoughts in the Facebook post and share this with your friends.