A US multinational sacked a worker here after he washed his feet in a container used for serving food in the factory canteen.
Martin Conroy sued for unfair dismissal against Baxter Healthcare, but the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) found it was reasonable for Baxter to conclude that Mr Conroy’s actions amounted to gross misconduct and that the firm was justified in sacking the long-serving employee.
The EAT stated that what Mr Conroy did, in washing his feet in the stainless steel container used for serving food, represented “unacceptable behaviour in the workplace”.
Mr Conroy began working with the firm in 1977 and was promoted and moved to its Swinford base in Co Mayo in 1989. He was employed as an electrical craftsman until his sacking in May 2014.
Mr Conroy said that, around the time of the incident, he was very stressed and was suffering with diabetes.
He said his doctor had advised him to look after his feet as they could be susceptible to burning and sores due to the illness.
He agreed he had bathed his feet on the occasion in question and, when questioned about it, he admitted to using a steel receptacle to bathe his feet, but had cleaned it thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap when he was finished.
Mr Conroy told the tribunal he had not been in a good place at the time and felt that Baxter showed “no compassion”.
At a meeting with Baxter before his dismissal, Mr Conroy claimed other staff were using canteen utensils for other jobs on the factory floor. He was asked for examples and who these people were, but Mr Conroy would not offer up any names.
Baxter wrote to Mr Conroy to tell him his employment would be terminated as “the bond of trust and confidence that form the foundation of our relationship with you has been irretrievably broken and we are left with no option other than to terminate your contract of employment”.
He claimed the decision to dismiss him was motivated by mala fides (bad faith) and that effectively he was a marked man. Mr Conroy also complained that Baxter had not taken into his account his attendance record and previous good conduct.
The tribunal found that Mr Conroy gave inconsistent evidence and attempted to deflect responsibility.
“The tribunal is of the opinion that the respondent dealt with the issue fairly and that it was not motivated by any other agenda,” the EAT concluded.