Limerick pharma worker dismissed after sending ‘ill-advised’ ‘Family Guy’ message to female colleague 

Limerick pharma worker dismissed after sending ‘ill-advised’ ‘Family Guy’ message to female colleague 

A bio-pharma firm employee who sent a female worker a “seriously ill-advised” Facebook Family Guy message has been awarded €40,380 for unfair dismissal.

The message contained inappropriate language of a possible sexual innuendo nature.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator, Peter O’Brien, found that the main Irish arm of US firm Regeneron unfairly dismissed Robert Libera for gross misconduct on March 20, 2019.

Regeneron has its manufacturing base at the former Dell site in Limerick. Mr Libera worked as a manufacturing support Lead with the company.

Regeneron Ireland DAC dismissed Mr Libera after a 22-year-old woman employed by a third party supplier on site made a complaint concerning a Facebook messenger exchange between the two on January 18, 2019.

In her initial complaint, the woman said that after Mr Libera had given her a fruit juice, he hinted it may have contained a biological fluid or otherwise and messaged her about “part of him” being “inside of her” and “if she felt part of him inside her”.

Possible sexual innuendo

In his findings, Mr O’Brien determined that the text message may have been intended to be humorous but can be considered, in isolation “as inappropriate, offensive, and contain possible sexual innuendo”.

Mr O’Brien stated that whatever Mr Libera intended, “the message was seriously ill-advised and contained inappropriate language of a possible sexual innuendo nature”.

Mr O’Brien that that Mr Libera’s case “is very weak on the substantive issue” but primarily succeeds on procedural grounds.

In making the award, Mr O’Brien weighed Mr Libera’s contribution to his loss at 40%.

Mr O’Brien said: “Sending a message like he did to a female work colleague, no matter how the Complainant (Mr Libera) deemed it to be trivial or funny was inappropriate, ill-judged, and resulted in serious consequences for Mr Libera.” 

The woman made a complaint concerning the message and met with Regeneron investigators where she initially described the exchange to Regeneron investigators as having “a big impact on her that weekend and was the worst weekend of her life”.

The woman initially stated she was terrified and felt physically ill as a result of the exchange with Mr Libera.

‘Family Guy’ cartoon clip

However, Mr Libera told the WRC that he accompanied the text with a clip from US cartoon, Family Guy, which almost exactly states what Mr Libera stated in the text exchange.

Documents provided to Mr Libera show that the woman had not seen the Family Guy clip before making her complaint while all three Regeneron decision makers who dismissed Mr Libera confirmed they did not see the YouTube clip.

Legal representatives for Mr Libera say that the Family Guy clip “proves that no bad intentions existed in the communications and was intended as a joke”.

Describing himself as a “big Family Guy fan”, Mr Libera expected the woman would know the context of his comments as they were well known and common phrases in Family Guy.

Two days later on January 20, the woman emailed Regeneron to say that she was withdrawing her complaint and that she now had a different view of the messages.

Mr O’Brien stated that nearly all of the woman’s comments in the January 20 email favoured Mr Libera and t

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