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Tuesday 16 September 2014

€12,500 for call centre worker fired for swearing

Gordon Deegan

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

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The tribunal found that a clear warning would have sufficed for the first offence and on the face of it the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate
The tribunal found that a clear warning would have sufficed for the first offence and on the face of it the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate

A CALL centre worker who turned the air blue with expletive and offensive language with colleagues in an open plan office has been awarded €12,500 for unfair dismissal.

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Waste firm Oxigen Environmental has been ordered by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to pay the sum of money to customer service representative Janet Mooney after finding that she was unfairly dismissed.

There is no doubt that Ms Mooney "in verbally expressing herself at work used expletives and offensive language which was unacceptable to some of her listeners," the EAT ruled. "This scenario cannot be condoned."

However, the tribunal found that a clear warning would have sufficed for the first offence and on the face of it the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate.

Ms Mooney had worked for Oxigen for five years and had an unblemished record before being dismissed for gross misconduct in 2012.

According to the EAT report, Oxigen's reason for dismissing Ms Mooney "was her inappropriate language in phone conversations along with poor handling of a customer phone call".

The report states that it was alleged that Ms Mooney used bad language during phone conversations with colleagues.

In her evidence before the tribunal, recently heard over two days in Dublin, Ms Mooney denied that she used bad and offensive language but accepted that on occasion, the choice of words to colleagues was colourful.

The customer service rep told the tribunal that she was given less than 48 hours notice to attend a formal meeting with management from Oxigen.

According to the EAT report, during the meeting audio recordings of some of her phone conversations were played back to Ms Mooney "and based on her unapologetic admittance of potential damage and the unacceptable language used" Oxigen concluded that the only option was to dismiss Ms Mooney.

Ms Mooney believed that when she was dismissed it was because of her stated refusal to accept further pay cuts.

She said that as she worked in an open place office, she was able to hear, at times, some or all of the conversations taking place in the office.

Ms Mooney said that during her initial and ongoing training for her role, she did not receive any specific instructions on her use of language with customers and in the workplace and up to 2012 had never been reprimanded by her employer.

In its determination, the EAT stated that an employer is obliged to apply fair procedures and act reasonably when sanctioning an employee for any misdemeanour.

The EAT report states: "The claimant had an unblemished record. There was no evidence that there was an investigation or a suspension in this matter."

The tribunal found that the notice and nature of the meeting on July 18 "was too short".

It states: "A clear warning would have sufficed for this first offence and on the face of it, the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate".

Irish Independent

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