If you think that dismissing an employee for “gross misconduct” is easy, think again. This case involved a department manager with Dunnes Stores, Eleanor Preston, who set up a side business selling goods from a cash and carry to colleagues.
She admitted doctoring a letter from a community organisation group who packed bags in Dunnes in order to set up an account with a cash and carry in the name of the community group. The community group complained to Dunnes and on foot of this Dunnes suspended and then sacked (following a disciplinary hearing) Ms. Preston.
Dunnes argued at the Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing that they had lost the fundamental trust required in the employer/employee relationship. Ms. Preston explained that she was in financial difficulty when she ran her “enterprise”.
Ms. Preston had a good service record of 10 years with Dunnes and a clean disciplinary record. Dunes claimed that they took both of these into account in their decision to dismiss.
Ms. Preston appealed the decision to dismiss but the decision was upheld by a regional manager who said the essential element of trust was no longer possible.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal took a different view:
“As this was the claimant’s first offence, committed in a time of great personal difficulty which the respondent was aware of, the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate.”
Ms. Preston was awarded €14,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal and an additional €2,630 under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005.
It can be very difficult to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct-you can learn more about unfair dismissal here.