Tribunal rules in favour of used car dealer who ran into boss on unauthorised holiday

  • Car salesman wins wrongful dismissal claim against Bill Griffin Motors
  • Gary Maloney bumped into boss in bar in Portugal while AWOL from job
  • His holiday wasn’t approved as other members of staff were away at family wedding
  • Investigation rules he was unfairly sacked due to a lack of  ‘investigation or disciplinary process’
  • He is awarded more than £10,000 in compensation

Time 8:27 am, January 30, 2024

A used car dealer has won a case of wrongful dismissal after he was fired ‘on the spot’ when returning from an unauthorised holiday which saw him run into his boss in a Portuguese bar.

Car Dealer reported last year how Gary Maloney went AWOL in October 2022, leaving staff at Bill Griffin Motors ‘in the lurch’ by his unexplained absence.

The mystery was soon solved when he walked into a bar on the Algarve and came face to face with one of the firm’s directors, Robert Griffin.

Upon his return to the Dublin-based showroom, Maloney was sacked for his actions but an employment tribunal has now ruled he that this was unfair.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that there was ‘no evidence of investigation or disciplinary process’ in relation to the incident.

It awarded Maloney the sum of €12,500 (£10,660) and upheld his complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

In her verdict, adjudicating officer Davnet O’Driscoll wrote: ‘The respondent has failed to discharge the statutory burden.

‘I find the dismissal of the complainant is unfair on both procedural and substantive grounds.’

The hearing was told that Maloney initially requested the time off around three months before the holiday for the week of October 10, 2022 but was told by sales director David Griffin he needed all staff at the dealership as he was due to attend a family wedding.

Maloney said in his evidence: ‘I didn’t get a yes, I didn’t get a no,’ and claimed that Griffin told him: ‘Ah, it should be okay.’

However, bosses at the dealership denied this was the case, according to The Irish Times, and said Maloney left around 20 bookings – as well as several leads – unaccounted for.

David Griffin told the tribunal: ‘We were just left in the lurch. We’d a lot of customers trying to ring Gary. We got a lot of complaints, and one large cancelled sale, a €60,000 [Volvo] XC90 that Gary had sold.’

The firm insisted it didn’t know where the salesman was, but all was to be revealed thanks to a chance meeting in a bar.

Maloney couldn’t believe his own bad luck when he strolled into the tavern and came face to face with Robert Griffin.

He is said to have nervously asked ‘Uh, is Dave [Griffin] here?’ and mimed a ‘hiding gesture’. The pair then took a selfie together that ended up being passed around the staff back at the showroom.

David Griffin eventually arrived for the wedding the following day and spotted Maloney in a restaurant but chose against ‘bringing an HR matter into a family holiday’.

The Irish Times reported that the Maloney then returned to work the following Monday, when he was confronted by senior sales executive David Fleming.

In his evidence, Fleming said: ‘I asked: “Where were you?” Obviously we knew because of the picture. He shrugged his shoulders. He said he had to go.

‘Was I a bit angry? Yes. Was I screaming and shouting? No.’

Fleming added: ‘[He] turned around and shrugged his shoulders, handed back the laptop and said: “Don’t worry about it, I’m done, make sure I’m paid.”

‘He handed the laptop back, with both hands: “I’m owed a few quid, make sure they pay” – those sort of words.’

‘It’s either you or me’

In his evidence, Maloney denied verbally resigning from his post and said he was sacked ‘unfairly’ by the firm.

He told the WRC that on his return, Fleming angrily asked him: ‘Where the f**k were you last week?’

He said: ‘Number one, well, he knew where I was, I was away in the sun because I had a tan. Number two, I was aware that the person I’d sent the photo to had circulated it to all the other staff.

‘I was told to go home. I was told to leave the laptop on the premises and that Dave was going to be home on the Tuesday and he would contact me.’

Maloney added that such was Fleming’s strength of feeling over the incident, he told him: ‘If he [Dave Griffin] does come and offer your job back it’s either you or me.’

Fleming refuted Maloney’s version of events and said he didn’t have the authority to fire Maloney.

Appearing for Maloney, Eoin O’Connor BL said the dismissal was unfair since no allegation was put to Maloney, nor was there an investigation.

But Hugh O’Donnell BL, acting for Bill Griffin Motors, told the WRC Maloney went in on the Monday ‘to hand in his resignation orally’ and the company hadn’t dismissed him.

In it’s verdict, the WRC judged Maloney’s financial losses at €19,026 (£16,230). Bill Griffin Motors is yet to comment.

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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