Bouncer not sacked from bar over claim he pushed transgender woman down stairs, WRC finds

Ellison Silva dos Santos offered work in other Mercantile Entertainment Group venues after incident

A former bouncer at Dublin’s biggest gay bar, the George, has failed in an unfair dismissal claim after a tribunal ruled he was not sacked over an accusation that he pushed a transgender woman down a flight of stairs.

In a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, Ellison Silva dos Santos, who was employed by Mercantile Entertainment Group Ltd, said the customer “threw herself” down the stairs at the well-known venue “to create a drama” on June 28th last.

He maintained he was fired two days later by the bar’s general manager, who said he was not happy to allow him to continue working at the venue.

The Mercantile Group, which also runs Nolita cocktail bar on George’s Street and Opium nightclub on Wexford Street, took the position that it had work for the complainant elsewhere in its business and even rostered him again at the George, but said he simply failed to show up for shifts assigned to him.


Its representative also accused the bouncer of trying to use the incident as an “opportunity to get compensatory payment”.

Giving evidence via an interpreter to a hearing last month, Mr Silva dos Santos said the patron had “too much to drink” and he wanted her to come to another location so they could speak. He said the patron complied at first but then “went the other direction” and he “tried to touch [her] to come on to this direction”.

“The client didn’t like and slapped him in the face. After [being] slapped in the face he grabbed her arm and conducted her downstairs. She was trying to fight to him, but she don’t fall too much because he was holding her,” the interpreter said.

Mr Silva dos Santos’s evidence was that the patron tried to kick him twice after she went to the floor.

He said he explained what happened to the duty manager when the man came to the scene, including that the patron had slapped him in the face. “The manager screamed at him asking him to leave the situation and just go out,” the interpreter said.

CCTV footage of the incident was shown to Workplace Relations Commission adjudicator Marie Flynn by the Mercantile Group’s HR manager, Holly Kiely, while the complainant was being cross-examined.

John Keenan, a HR consultant representing the company, told Mr Silva dos Santos: “You did actually push the lady, it’s quite clear.”

“No,” Mr Silva dos Santos said.

“You deny it,” Mr Keenan said.

“It’s your opinion, I respect that, but I don’t push,” the complainant said.

“The duty manager on the night he attended, said there were actually two pushes; the lady found herself on the steps twice before she went out,” Mr Keenan said.

“She didn’t fall, she throw herself,” the complainant said.

“Ah right, so she threw herself,” Mr Keenan said.

“She was trying [to] escape, it’s like she was trying to make a drama,” the complainant said.

Mr Silva dos Santos said his employment ended two days later when he met the George’s general manager, Darragh Flynn and was told he was “fired”.

Mr Flynn denied this in his own evidence, telling the tribunal, that the worker himself came to the meeting and stated: “Either I’m working tonight, or I’m fired.”

He said he told the complainant he would contact the group’s security manager about arranging work in other venues. However, Mr Flynn added that Mr Silva dos Santos was later given a roster that included some work at the George.

Ms Kiely said she issued Mr Silva dos Santos a warning letter the week following the incident and wrote again a number of times about the complainant’s failure to attend for rostered work in the following weeks. She said his contract was terminated on August 11th last because the company took the view he had abandoned his employment.

Mr Silva dos Santos said he felt “really, really sad” that the customer had “slapped him” and that the duty manager screaming at him made him feel “down”.

In her decision, Ms Flynn noted the warning letter given to the complainant by the HR manager was “indicative of an ongoing relationship rather than a relationship that has been terminated”.

She also noted the contents of a series of text exchanges between the complainant and a security manager last July, which included messages telling Mr Silva dos Santos he had been “transferred out of the George to work in the other venues across the company” and one reading “you were not fired from the Mercantile Group”.

Ms Flynn said the evidence indicated to her on the balance of probabilities that the worker “was not dismissed” on June 30th as he had alleged and that his complaint was “not well founded”.

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