Restaurant worker fired after row with manager while holding knife awarded compensation

Restaurant Worker Fired After Row With Manager While Holding Knife Awarded Compensation
The fast-food worker was awarded €500 in compensation. Photo: Collins
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Seán McCárthaigh

A fast-food restaurant worker who was fired on the spot after a row with his manager while holding a knife in his hand has been awarded €500 compensation.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that the employee, Martin Murphy, had been unfairly dismissed in a case taken against Tom Harrington, the owner of the Cork-based chain of Burgerhut restaurants.


The manager of the outlet told the WRC that he arrived in the shop on September 15th, 2023, in order to speak to Mr Murphy about slacking off on the job.

The manager said he had already had numerous informal conversations with the complainant about the same issues over several months.

He gave evidence that he regarded the latest conversation as a verbal warning.

The manager said he approached Mr Murphy, who was preparing potatoes in a back room, that he was not fulfilling all his duties and action would be needed to resolve the issues.


He claimed Mr Murphy immediately became agitated and began shouting: “I am working here longer than you; you don’t tell me how to do my job. No one ever had a problem with how I do my job.”

The manager said the complainant also said he would “drag you through the courts” if he was being threatened about his job.

He pointed out that no threats had been made about Mr Murphy’s job at that point, but he had remarked: “Do your job right, because I am sick of picking up the slack.”

Don’t you dare speak to me like that.


The manager recalled that the worker had a knife in one hand and was pointing it in his face, shouting: “Don’t you dare speak to me like that. Who are you to do that?”

He recalled pushing Mr Murphy’s finger away from his face while saying: “Who are you pointing fingers at? You are the one not doing your job. I am doing your job every day. You can’t work with me with that attitude. You need to leave.”

Mr Murphy replied that only the restaurant’s owner could tell him to leave.

The manager replied: “I am coming here to tell you to do your job, not to fire you. You are the one shouting and roaring.”


He gave evidence that he felt it was fair to dismiss Mr Murphy due to his “consistent lack of respect, his incompetency to fulfil all duties of his role, his behaviour towards female staff members, shouting at me while wielding a knife and aggressively pointing his finger in my face”.

The manager said Mr Murphy begged him to reconsider his decision, but he refused.

“I have been a store manager in several fast-food stores for the past 15 years in Ireland and I have never come across someone with so little respect for his role and co-workers,” he added.

The manager said the incident was a result of tensions which had been building due to Mr Murphy’s dissatisfaction with the appointment of a new assistant manager and his own rate of pay and hours not being increased.


He claimed the complainant’s level of aggression was “unacceptable”.


In evidence, Mr Murphy denied that he had pointed a knife in the manager’s direction.

He said the manager claimed he was not doing enough work during his shifts and told him to leave the premises.

Mr Murphy said he believed he had got on great with other staff, and believed there were now three people doing his job.

He also told the WRC that he had not been looking for other work due to “personal/carer” reasons.

WRC adjudication officer, Gaye Cunningham, ruled that Mr Murphy had been dismissed without notice following the altercation with his manager.

Ms Cunningham said no written reason for his dismissal had been provided to the complainant and no formal disciplinary procedure had been followed.

While there was some conflict of evidence about the nature of the altercation and Mr Murphy had brought “a certain level of aggression” to the situation, Ms Cunningham said instant dismissal was not warranted.

She said it was understandable that the manager was dissatisfied with Mr Murphy’s work performance and attitude.

However, she said the complainant should have been subjected to a disciplinary process in such circumstances.

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