EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
CLAIM OF: CASE NO.
Geraldine Pender – Claimant UD460/2014
Woodies DIY Limited T/a Woodies DIY and Garden Centres Arena – Respondent
UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACTS 1977 TO 2007
I certify that the Tribunal
(Division of Tribunal)
Chairman: Mr P. O’Leary
Members: Mr F. Cunneen
Mr Al Butler
heard this claim at Dublin on 8th June and 27th July 2015
Claimant: Ms Bláithín Gallagher BL instructed by John Devlin of
Barron Morris Solicitors, 13 Raheny Shopping Centre, Dublin 5
Respondent: Mr Tiernan Doherty of IBEC,
Confederation House, 84/86, Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
The determination of the Tribunal was as follows:-
The fact of dismissal was in dispute.
The store manager who was the claimant’s supervisor at the time of her dismissal gave evidence. He carried out the investigation. The duty manager brought the issues to his attention after a cashier told him she was uncomfortable with the way the claimant handled some refunds.
When he looked at the CCTV he found 3 examples of the claimant issuing refunds where no customer was present and no product was returned. When a customer requests a refund the customer is asked to sign the receipt and write his address on it. In these cases the claimant signed off on the refunds.
The store manager first spoke informally with the claimant about refunds but he was not happy with her answers. He spoke to her formally and offered her the opportunity to be accompanied at the meeting. He suspended the claimant with pay while he investigated further.
He wrote to the claimant on 6 November 2013 inviting her to a disciplinary meeting to be held on 8 November.
The executive area manager gave evidence. He knew the claimant throughout her employment as chief cashier. He visited the Coolock store weekly. Her role was pivotal; she was a go between managers and floor staff. The chief cashier looks after the cash. Cash is counted and recorded every day and anomalies are reported. It is common to have anomalies in a store that has up to a thousand transactions a day. An anomaly of up to €2 per till per day is allowed. If there is a larger anomaly it is recorded and the duty manager is informed and he in turn has a chat with the cashier.
The executive area manager ran the disciplinary process. The claimant was invited to a meeting. The claimant admitted to putting through 2 fictitious transactions. She took discarded receipts out of a bin and put them through as refunds. She signed the receipts with false names. She involved a junior staff member in processing one of the transactions. The issue came to light when the junior staff member spoke about it. Before the claimant went on holidays she was aware of a deficit of €30 in the tills and she covered this with her own money. The executive area manager struggled to understand this action.
The claimant accepted that she had signed fictitious refunds. This action prevented the respondent from investigating cash shortfalls. He considered lesser sanctions but decided to dismiss the claimant.
The operations director dealt with the claimant’s appeal of the decision to dismiss her. He looked at all the information and asked was anything missed or was anything not covered. It is a big thing to take some one’s job.
He asked the claimant if she was aware of the processes and she was familiar with them. She processed refunds without a customer being present and as a result stock was recorded as being present when it was not. In 25 years of big box retail experience the operations director had never seen this before. He was not satisfied with her explanation.
He considered the sanction of dismissal a bit high. He wanted to put her into an environment where she could be retrained. He gave her a final written warning to ensure she did not falsify records again.
The claimant gave evidence. She was recruited by the respondent as chief cashier for their Coolock store. She worked in that position for eight and a half years. When she started she received no formal training. She spent a week in the Glasnevin store where one of the girls in the cash office showed her what to do. She was not given the policy document.
When the claimant started in the Coolock store the cash office was very untidy and huge till discrepancies were the norm. She retrained all the floor staff and introduced spot checks on tills. During her employment she worked under seven different store managers. Some duty managers needed to be dragged in to do spot checks. The claimant spent the mornings in the cash office and the afternoons on the floor giving support. She loved her job.
The claimant felt that she had offered an adequate explanation for the incidents complained of. The cash office works a day behind the floor. On 19 August 2013 she was doing the tills from the 17th and 18th. She discovered that two tills were down. One was down €25 and the other was down €10. She took €30 from the safe to balance the tills. She told the duty manager that there was a problem and he in turn informed the store manager. She hoped the shortfall would show up by Monday. She did take two receipts from a bin and issue refunds, signing fictitious names on the receipts. The claimant accepted that no customer was present when she issued the refunds.
She added the money to the cash declaration sheet. When the store manager was investigating the matter she asked him to get the sheet so she could show him what she had done. He refused.
The second issue related to 5 September 2013. There was a stock take in the store on 3 September. One of the tills was down €30. The claimant assumed the money went to petty cash and took €30 from the safe to cover the short. Later she realised that the petty cash was not short but the till was. She tried to contact the duty manager but he was not available. The claimant was going on holidays the next day and wanted to leave everything tidy for her. She used €30 of her own money to cover the short. She put a note with the money in the safe.
The claimant went on holidays but due to ill health she did not return to work until 4 November 2013. That day the store manager was acting strange and insisted that she get another medical cert and that took her some time. When she returned he sat her down and asked about the refunds in August. She accepted that she had done it. The store manager then asked her if she wanted anyone with her. She said no. She was not told it was an investigation meeting. She was not shown the CCTV footage or given witness statements on that occasion. She had done nothing that was not done by others.
The claimant was devastated to be dismissed. She had expected to get a warning. She appealed the decision and felt that she was listened to at that meeting. She was offered reinstatement as a cashier. This was not acceptable. She had always been a manager and would not accept the cashier role.
A cashier from the Coolock store gave evidence. She was aware that on occasion refunds were done to balance the tills.
The Tribunal having heard the evidence in this case have come to the following conclusions:
- The actions of the claimant were such that they indicated to the respondent that she was indulging in practices contrary to good procedures, which may or may not have been countenanced by the respondent’s administration in previous years.
- The Tribunal deemed the dismissal of the claimant in these circumstances to be somewhat harsh. However, by offering a different position and in a different location to the one the claimant held without a reduction in salary, they were in effect terminating her employment from the position she held.
In the circumstances the Tribunal determines that the dismissal was unfair, in light of the expressed opinion of the person who conducted the appeal.
The Tribunal gave consideration to the remedies under the Act and find the most appropriate remedy in this case to be reengagement in the same location from the date of this order.
Sealed with the Seal of the
Employment Appeals Tribunal