Sacked Tipperary worker who spat on ground during Covid 'put health of others in danger'
A Tipperary factory worker who spat on the ground at the height of Covid-19 while clocking out has lost his claim that he was unfairly dismissed by his employers.
Dariusz Swider had launched a claim for unfair dismissal against Carey Glass, Nenagh, over an incident on March 26, 2020, in the Workplace Relations Commission.
The company – which employs 450 people – summarily dismissed Mr Swider for gross misconduct on March 27, one day after he was seen spitting on the ground as managers tried to ensure that workers remained socially distant at the firm’s turnstile clock-in clock-out gates.
Mr Swider had been employed at the company for almost 15 years.
According to the company, on March 26, the health and safety officer (HSO) noticed Mr Swider close to the person in front of him and asked him to keep a safe distance.
The officer said Mr Swider did not step back when requested but turned his head towards the them and spat on the ground. The officer called Mr Swider again but he continued to clock out and left.
According to Carey Glass, this was confirmed by the five witnesses in their witness statements.
At a disciplinary meeting on March 27, the firm said that Mr Swider denied spitting on the floor towards the HSO “and he showed no remorse whatsoever and a total lack of understanding for the seriousness of his behaviour”.
The WRC officer hearing the case, Gaye Cunningham, found that given the circumstances at the time, Carey Glass acted as a reasonable employer in summarily dismissing Mr Swider “in a situation where he put the health of others in the workplace in danger”.
The officer also found Mr Swider by his behaviour and attitude left Carey Glass “with no other option but to dismiss him on the grounds of gross misconduct”.
“The period during which the incident occurred was a most difficult, challenging time, when the entire country and wider world was in a fearful grip of Covid-19," said Ms Cunningham.
She aid that Mr Swider had shown "no grasp of the seriousness of the situation".
She also noted that he had not appealed the decision.
The firm told the WRC that, at the time, “we were terrorised and still are by a life threatening virus sweeping the world”.
Carey Glass said the dismissal was fair “as there were substantial grounds, due to the conduct of the employee, justifying the dismissal on grounds of gross misconduct”.
The company's domestic director believed there were reasonable grounds to believe the incident happened and given the severity of the issue, the sanction was instant dismissal.
However, a Government Stay at Home order delayed the dismissal letter being issued. It was sent on July 7, 2020.
In his evidence at the WRC, Mr Swider said what he did was misinterpreted. He meant no disrespect to the company's health and safety officer. He did not spit in the direction of the health and safety officer, and if the officer felt he was disrespectful, he would apologise.
Mr Swider said he had a sinus problem and there was nowhere else to spit.
He was aware of the Covid-19 signs, but he was worried about his family, he said.
He was not aware of being told he could appeal the decision.
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