A supervisor with Gate Gourmet has been awarded €50,889 in an unfair dismissal claim. The worker had a blemish free record for 19 years and the Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that the sanction of dismissal was “a disproportionate sanction in all the circumstances”.
Gate Gourmet had a contract supplying airline food to various airlines. In 2012 they received a complaint that one of their customers had been supplied with an out of date and stale chicken wrap; in fact, the wrap was out of date in February, 2012 and the complaint received in April, 2012.
Gate Gourmet’s contract with this customer was to expire in July 2012 and this incident made it very difficult to ensure the contract was renewed.
This worker was found to have failed to follow standard operating procedure and was dismissed for gross misconduct on the grounds that the company took incidences such as this very seriously.
Two other employees also failed to notice the out of date wrap and received final written warnings. This different treatment from the sacked worker was something that was noted by the EAT.
The dismissed employee told the EAT that another worker actually took responsibility for not checking and recording the product, in accordance with procedures.
The EAT awarded him €45,000 for unfair dismissal and €5,889 in lieu of 8 weeks’ notice to which he would have been entitled.
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.
General operative, who withdrew his appeal to his employer against his dismissal for gross misconduct, is awarded €18000 for unfair dismissal due to procedural defects in the investigation process.
General operative-felt unwell-went home-dismissed for gross misconduct-refused to answer questions in investigation-claimant contacted union representative-appealed decision to dismiss-withdrew appeal on union representative advice-claimed for unfair dismissal-investigation carried out by employer-did not inform claimant-did not give opportunity to partake in investigation-employer failed to tell claimant of his right to representation-investigator also acted as disciplinarian-procedural defects in process-sufficiently flawed and invalid-withdrawal of appeal on advice of union official reasonable-€18,000 for unfair dismissal-€800 awarded under Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts.
Decision published 8th November, 2012
For claimant: Grainne Duggan BL instructed by Anderson & Gallagher solicitors
For respondent: Noel O’Hanrahan, O’Hanrahan Lally solicitors