Sunday 24 September 2017

Dunnes worker fights dismissal after selling drink to girl (15)

Fiona Ellis

A FORMER employee of Dunnes Stores is claiming unfair dismissal after she was fired for selling alcohol to a minor who was part of a garda sting operation.

Lorraine Fitzpatrick (below) sold a 15-year-old girl four bottles of Smirnoff Ice at the Drogheda-based grocery store at around 7.45pm on Friday December 9, 2011. The teen was a garda test purchaser.

The store was then prosecuted, fined €1,500 and ordered to close for four days. It was the first conviction under a new scheme which allows gardai to use children aged 15, 16 and 17 as undercover agents in off-licences and pubs.

However, in July this year the supermarket giant won an appeal against the conviction but had to pay €4,000 to charity.

Mandate trade union official Willie Hamilton told an Employment Appeals Tribunal, chaired by Fiona Crawford, that it was only after selling the teen alcohol did Ms Fitzpatrick have doubts as to whether she might have been underage.

"She put her hands up and said 'I should have been more careful'," he said.

Store manager Sean Lonergan gave evidence to the tribunal and said although Ms Fitzpatrick, an employee of 12 years, was "a very good worker" it was "lethal to sell alcohol to a minor".

"We're not talking about something petty," he said. "I wanted to be as fair as possible, but it was just too serious."

He said there were other disciplinary options available to him but he chose to fire Ms Fitzpatrick.

He said she had undertaken many instances of training related to the selling of alcohol. He added he did not confer with Dunnes Stores head office about the decision.

Mr Hamilton said there were "serious concerns and questions" around the quality of training Ms Fitzpatrick received, and about the fairness of the disciplinary procedures carried out after the event.

The tribunal was adjourned until April.

Irish Independent

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