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Husband ordered to pay ex-wife €9,500 for her unfair dismissal from family company

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A publican, retailer and post office operator has been ordered to pay his ex-wife €9,500 for her unfair dismissal from the family run business.

The woman was sacked by her husband’s company in June 2019 after an investigation into the woman’s ‘top-up’ withdrawals of €1,000 at a time from the business to the couple’s personal joint account.

However, the woman - who was also a director of the business - sued for unfair dismissal at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and WRC Adjudication Officer, Anne McElduff has found that the woman’s claim is well founded.

The married couple separated in September 2017 and the woman has issued judicial separation proceedings.

In her findings, Ms McElduff found that the process that led to the termination of the woman’s employment from her ex-husband's company “fell far short of the requirements of any fair disciplinary procedure”.

Ms McElduff found that the woman was not advised or forewarned in advance that she may be dismissed from her employment.

Ms McElduff found that there was no express mention in the independent investigator’s findings of misappropriation of monies, notwithstanding that this was specifically stipulated in the terms of reference for the investigation.

Ms McElduff did state that the woman should have considered the impact of the withdrawals from the company’s account on the business.

The independent investigator found that between February 5th 2018 and February 14th 2019 a total of €25,160 was transferred on-line to the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife in 19 separate transactions from the company’s post office bank account.

The investigation also found that between August 31st 2017 and November 30th 2018, a total of €30,250 in 29 separate transactions were lodged into the joint personal bank account of the husband and wife as cash lodgements.

The investigation found that on the balance of probabilities, the publican and retailer’s wife made the transactions.

The husband stated that he exercised no control over the joint account. The company claimed that the woman had admitted that her spending "was out of control".

In the letter of dismissal, the businessman’s brother told his sister in law that the manner in which she has conducted herself on the matter “is totally unacceptable”.

The husband's brother replaced his sister in law as director and he told her “your actions have seriously undermined the level of trust in the business and working relationships within the Company… It has also cast serious doubt as to the level of trust which we could place in you in any future business relationship."

The dismissal letter concluded: “Resulting from this, the decision which I have reached is to terminate, with immediate effect, your directorship in the company and also cease any existing payments from the Company which are being made to you.”

The complainant stated that she was advised by another accountant in the company’s accountancy firm that she could top up her wages by withdrawals of €1000.

She stated that she never denied transferring the money from the post office account to her and her husband's joint personal bank account and that she did so in a transparent manner.

The complainant denied any misappropriation of money and stated that  there was no attempt on her part to hide the transfer of the money and that if she was intent on misappropriation of any money she would not have transferred the money the joint personal bank account.

She stated that immediately after her return from holidays in February 2019 she was denied access to the business credit/cash card and that everything was “stripped from her” in February 2019 including her job.

The woman stated that she had worked on average between 50 – 70 hours per week and that she always worked hard.

The woman had stayed at home to mind her children from approximately 2013 – 2015 and that she returned to work in the business from 2015.

Ms McElduff found that the complainant contributed to the circumstances in which she found herself as a consequence of her lack of engagement with the investigation process.

The woman was paid by her husband's company until June 2019 and has since secured alternative employment.

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