Gym director gets €300k compensation for unfair dismissal Friday, March 16 2012
One of the country € most exclusive gyms and fitness centres, which is often used by Irish rugby players, must pay the man credited with making it a success almost €300,000 for unfair dismissal.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal has ordered the David Lloyd Leisure Group to pay the compensation for unfair dismissal to Paul Taylor, 51, the former resident director and general manager of its Riverview Racquet and Fitness Club, based in Clonskeagh, Dublin.
It is one of the biggest awards ever made by the tribunal, which is limited to ordering compensation to a maximum of twice annual salary.
The group was criticised for its “belittling” attitude towards Mr Taylor right up to the hearing. The Employment Appeals tribunal accused the group of attempting to undermine its former employee by suggesting he should not apply for such a job again.
The tribunal said Mr Taylor, who previously worked for the Hertfordshire-based leisure group in Britain, held a unique position within the company as he had a considerable amount of autonomy, unlike his British counterparts.
The tribunal said the group was wrong to claim he was an average general manager with no special privileges or powers.
It acknowledged that he appeared to have successfully built up the club in Clonskeagh between 2003 and 2008, noting his performance was regarded as “exceptional”, although there was an element of self-assessment in such a record.
On a website page, Mr Taylor, who is now based in Murcia, Spain, as a hospitality consultant, claims he was responsible for a business which generated around €3.6m in pre-tax profit while based in Dublin.
The tribunal said Mr Taylorâ€™s management style had not been questioned or interfered with over the years and he had enjoyed good relations with all levels of hierarchy. It said its overall impression was that the groupâ€™s Irish division had been successfully brought forward with Mr Taylor “at the wheel”.
It claimed the group had a laissez-faire attitude towards the claimant as he had a company credit card without any guidelines or recommendations as to its use. The tribunal said as a consequence of this practice Mr Taylor developed bad habits with its use and became careless about reconciling expenses.
Mr Taylor wrote to the group €chief executive in Feb 2009 to express concern about a change in management style as he was reporting to a new line manager and also to regularise his terms of employment.
Around the same time, Mr Taylor €new line manager received an anonymous tip-off, which was described by the tribunal as “a poisonous pen letter designed to seriously damage the reputation of one of its employees”.
The tribunal said it seemed extraordinary that the duty of care owed to Mr Taylor was disregarded in favour of “the views of an unknown entity whose motives can only be guessed at”.
Mr Taylor € line manager subsequently warned him he faced investigation of the allegations which, if true, would constitute gross misconduct and likely lead to instant dismissal.
The tribunal disagreed and found the allegations and findings against Mr Taylor could not amount to gross misconduct.
“The tribunal accepts that the claimant may well have been in need of some form of disciplinary sanction in relation to some aspects of his behaviour, but for years, the claimant was not being effectively managed from the UK and was not being given any direction.”
The tribunal said the sanction of dismissal outweighed any wrongdoing on Mr Taylor € part. It did not accept there was any intention by Mr Taylor to defraud the company or act for his own benefit to its detriment. It ordered the group to pay Mr Taylor €280,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal and €19,038 under minimum notice legislation.
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, March 16, 2012 written By SeÃ¡n McCÃ¡rthaigh