A used car dealer thought his bosses would never know where he was when he took an unauthorised beach holiday – but he didn’t bank on running into one of his employers in a bar in Portugal.
Gary Maloney went AWOL last October, leaving staff at Bill Griffin Motors ‘in the lurch’ by his unexplained absence.
But the mystery was soon solved when he walked into a bar in Albufeira on the Algarve and came face to face with one of the firm’s directors, Robert Griffin.
The incident led to Maloney leaving the Dublin-based car dealer, but he has now taken the firm to an employment tribunal, saying he was sacked unfairly.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was told 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.’
But 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 added: ‘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 the chance meeting in a bar.
After seeing Robert Griffin, Maloney 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, reported The Irish Times.
The tribunal was adjourned for a fortnight last week for more submissions by Maloney, with Bill Griffin Motors also being given leave to seek a further hearing to cross-examine Maloney, although that may be dealt with in writing.
A ruling will be given at a later date.
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