Dunnes manager who ran a cash and carry sideline awarded €16,600
A DEPARTMENT manager with Dunnes Stores lost her job after setting up a sideline enterprise selling goods from a cash and carry to colleagues.
However, an employment appeals tribunal has found that Eleanor Preston was unfairly dismissed by Dunnes and ordered the supermarket giant to pay her €16,630.
The hearing was told that Ms Preston admitted she had doctored a letter from a community organisation group that packed bags at Dunnes in order to open a cash and carry account.
Ms Preston – who had been with Dunnes for 10 years – was sacked for gross misconduct after it found out about her enterprise in February 2012.
The dismissal followed the store receiving a complaint from the local community group in February 2012 over Ms Preston opening an account in its name.
The community group's letterhead was used to validate the association with the group to open the account.
Ms Preston admitted taking the letter requesting a bag pack and doctoring it for the purposes of opening an account.
The long-serving employee was immediately suspended, and then sacked at a disciplinary meeting two days later.
At a meeting on February 11 2012, Ms Preston told bosses she "was in financial difficulty and was earning extra money from selling the cash and carry goods". At a second meeting that day, she admitted to selling the goods to Dunnes staff on a different cash and carry account.
Dunnes argued that Ms Preston was in a position of trust and that no other sanction would be appropriate given the serious nature of the offence.
The store manager told the tribunal that he did take Ms Preston's long service, clean disciplinary record and family problems into consideration.
Ms Preston used the company's internal procedures to appeal. However, the regional grocery manager upheld the dismissal by letter on March 2, 2012. The regional manager told the hearing in Cork that Ms Preston was an excellent employee but the bond of trust was broken, so no lesser sanction would be appropriate for gross misconduct.
In her own evidence, Ms Preston admitted the offence but stated it was a serious error of judgment during a period of turmoil in her personal life. She felt the decision to dismiss her was made at the first meeting, and that her good record was not taken into account.
In its ruling, the tribunal found: "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."
It found the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act succeeded and awarded her €14,000 in compensation. It awarded her an additional €2,630, or four weeks' notice, under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005.