A former senior employee at the five-star Adare Manor hotel has claimed before the High Court that he was fired from his job for making protected disclosures about various issues at the Co Limerick-based resort.
Ger Finnin, from Patrickswell in County Limerick, has sued Tizzard Holding's Unlimited, trading as Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, purchased by businessman JP McManus in 2015, over the termination of his employment for alleged 'gross misconduct' in early 2018.
On Christmas Eve 2017, Mr Finnin was observed taking a box of beer and a box of cider from a storeroom at the resort. He put them in his car and eventually left them in another building on the 840-acre Adare Manor estate, and returned them on December 27th.
A few days later Mr Finnin, who says he was not guilty of any misconduct, was made the subject of an internal investigation and disciplinary process for allegedly removing the boxes from the store without permission.
Following an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing, which were heard by senior staff at Adare Manor, in January 2018 he was dismissed after being guilty of conduct that amounted to gross or serious misconduct.
That decision was upheld on appeal.
Mr Finnin claims those processes were fundamentally flawed, unfair and predetermined. He now seeks damages, including aggravated damages, for what he claims is a breach of contract by Adare Manor.
Represented by Anthony Kerr SC, Patrick Gageby SC and Cathal McGreal Bl he also seeks various declarations from the court including that his dismissal from his employment on Janurary19th 2018 breached natural and constitutional justice.
The claims are denied.
The company, represented by Marcus Dowling Bl and Mairead McKenna Bl, says there was gross misconduct by Mr Finnin and it was lawfully entitled to terminate his employment.
It also says it provided Mr Finnin with a fair investigation and disciplinary process. The defendant also denies that Mr Finnin is being penalised for making the alleged protective disclosures.
Mr Finnin is not entitled to any damages nor any of the reliefs he seeks from the court, the defendant also claims.
Opening the case Mr Kerr said Mr Finnin was employed at the resort as its director of Engineering and Facilities and was paid €65,000 plus benefits per year.
Mr Finnin was responsible for security, management of all maintenance on the estate, health and safety for all aspects of the resort, the estate's IT infrastructures and environmental compliance
His client believes he was dismissed because of disclosures he made to managers at Adare Manor about "regulatory issues" including lax security, no procedures being in place for dangerous tasks, non-compliance with Health and Safety requirements for building sites.
He also made protected no record keeping, tree felling without a licence and the improper storage of chemicals and pesticides.
Counsel said the entire disciplinary process was flawed. He was dismissed without having been given a proper chance to answer the allegation against him and was denied the right to cross-examine key witnesses.
Materials including CCTV and relevant emails were also withheld from his client during that process, and the sanction was grossly disproportionate, counsel said.
Following the dismissal, his client's health suffered and he had a heart attack. Counsel said Mr Finnin's reputation has also suffered as a result of his dismissal.
Since his employment was terminated Mr Finnin, who has since taken up a job elsewhere, was the subject of several false rumours coming from people working at the resort. The rumours included that his client had "stolen a boat," sold a company generator for his own benefit, and that beer was only the "tip of the iceberg," and there was so much on Mr Finnin that he would "probably get jail."
The case, before Mr Justice Senan Allen, continues and is expected to last several days.