A secondary school secretary is awarded €9,850 for unfair dismissal due to the employer’s “highly questionable” investigation into allegations.
Secondary school employer-claimant was full time secretary-number of versions of employment contract-claimant’s role to record and lodge school income-school’s power supply disconnected due to unpaid bills-unpaid newspaper-Principal became concerned about unpaid bills and stale cheques-issued warning to secretary-claimant granted leave of absence by Chairperson of Board of Management-claimant went to Australia-audit uncovered “unexplained and unaccountable absence of money” from school accounts-Principal wrote to secretary about “considerable discrepancies to accounts”-secretary invited to attend meeting-suspended secretary on full pay-secretary’s mother phoned principal-meeting attended by secretary, principal, accountant & others-disciplinary procedures invoked against secretary-another meeting requested-claimant denied stealing money from school-claimant had no access to office records to challenge allegations-EAT found unfair dismissal-accepted that there was discrepancies in school monies-audit found shortfall of €12,000 in school monies-legitimate questions to be asked-school not entitled to single out secretary-other people had access to the monies-accounting measures adopted by all members of staff ‘very slack’-was dismissal ‘reasonable’?-quality and extent of school’s investigation ‘highly questionable’-secretary had some responsibility-respondent failed to engage with process-enquiry flawed however-decision to dismiss not reasonable given it was based on flawed enquiry-€9,850 awarded to claimant for unfair dismissal.
For Claimant: Vernon Hegarty, SIPTU
For Respondent: Anne Hickey, Solicitor, Wine Street, Sligo
Date of Decision: 9th April, 2013