Thursday 22 February 2018

Dunnes employee 'made a sacrificial lamb', tribunal told

Lorraine Fitzpatrick leaving the employment appeals tribunal
Photo: Mark Condren
Lorraine Fitzpatrick leaving the employment appeals tribunal Photo: Mark Condren
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A former Dunnes Stores worker who was sacked for selling alcohol to a teenager in a garda sting operation claims she was made a 'sacrificial lamb' by her employer.

Lorraine Fitzpatrick (36), from Drogheda, told an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing that she was made a scapegoat by the retail giant ahead of the State’s firs t prosecution for selling alcohol to minors using teenage test purchasers in December 9, 2011.

The single mother of two was dismissed for gross misconduct after she admitted selling a 15 -year-old girl four bottles of Smirnoff Ice at the chain's grocery store in Drogheda centre.

But during the continuation of her unfair dismissal case against Dunnes, Ms Fitzpatrick claimed she believed the girl look ed over 18 and she was effectively made the “fall guy” after the retailer was prosecuted and fined €1,500. The store was also ordered to close for three days in the State ’s first conviction using teens aged be tween 15 and 17 to act as “test purchasers” to prosecute off-licences that sell alcohol to anyone under 18.

However, Dunnes won an appeal against the conviction last July and was ordered to pay €4,000 to charity instead.

Testifying before the tribunal, Ms Fitzpatrick said she felt that she was made a “sacrificial lamb” by Dunnes management who she claimed told her the prosecution “was going to have a massive impact on Dunnes Stores” . The tribunal heard Ms Fitzpatrick unsuccessfully appealed her dismissal by the company on five grounds that were set out in a letter .

She was not given an oral hearing of her appeal. Mandate trade union representative Willie Hamilton said Ms Fitzpatrick had an “exemplar y record ” during her 12 -year tenure with the company as a par t-time sales assistant.

Barrister Marcus Dowling , for Dunnes Stores, argued that Ms Fitzpatrick was dismissed for gross misconduct for breaching the company’ s policy of asking anyone who appears to be under 23 for identification when buying alcohol. The tribunal retired to consider the case

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