Creche worker accused of filming crying child and withholding food
A childcare worker was sacked after complaints that she had withheld food and drink from toddlers and punished them for misbehaviour by putting them in a corner.
Mary McNulty shouted at the children, lifted and dragged them, left one child without a coat on a cold day and used a noisy hand dryer as a threat to a toddler who was terrified of the machine, the Employment Appeals Tribunal heard.
The tribunal was also told by a co-worker at Ballyheane Buttercups Community Childcare Service in Ballyheane, Co Mayo that Mary McNulty had recorded a child crying on her phone and played the recording for other children to view.
Ms McNulty denied all of the allegations and claimed that members of staff did not like her and colluded against her by making the statements which led to her dismissal. She took her action alleging unfair dismissal against Ballyheane Community Sports Club Ltd. The sports club stated that Ms McNulty was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The hearing in Castlebar was told that Mary McNulty had worked in the toddler area for children aged from 18 months to three years. She had been employed at the community childcare facility from 2008 until her dismissal in 2011.
Initial concerns had been raised by childcare staff to the supervisor at the facility alleging that Mary McNulty was rough with the children and was not giving them food and drink. The staff were asked to outline their concerns in written statements.
Additional complaints were put to Mary McNulty at a subsequent meeting and one staff member described her as moody and difficult to work with.
The staff member told of one child who was visibly terrified of using the bathroom because of the hand dryer. Mary McNulty had admitted to her she used the hand dryer as a threat when the child would not use the toilet.
She had witnessed her lift and drag children on occasion and also witnessed her withdraw drinks. On another occasion she saw her record a child crying and playing the recording for other children to view. She regretted not reporting these matters earlier and denied that she and other staff had colluded against the childcare worker.
The childcare worker was dismissed for gross misconduct and the decision was upheld at an appeal hearing that she had not attended.
Mary McNulty told the tribunal that her own personality was generally quiet and believed that this had contributed to her downfall.
She denied ever threatening a child or deliberately setting off the hand dryer. She told the tribunal that her comment regarding the hand dryer was taken out of context. She never refused to give a child a drink or deliberately store the drinks away from the reach of the children.
She said that on occasion she would remove a child from a situation for a short period of time to allow the child to calm down. It was not a method of punishment.
And she also denied dragging children but described how, in a sweeping movement, she would remove a child from a fight in order to prevent injury to a child.
She denied ever recording a child crying on her mobile, but accepted she had her phone in her possession on occasion.
The tribunal found that the decision to dismiss was not unreasonable.
Given the nature of the allegations and the information gathered by the Ballyheane Sports Club Ltd during the course of its investigation, the Tribunal took the view that the club had no alternative but to dismiss Mary McNulty.
"Having considered all of the relevant issues and the submissions made by both legal representatives the tribunal concludes that the claimant was fairly dismissed", it said.