Dunnes worker challenges sacking for selling wine to underage girl in garda sting
A DUNNES Stores worker was fired from her job after she sold alcohol to a 16-year-old during an undercover operation by gardai.
Checkout operator Anna Perenc has taken a case before an Employment Appeals Tribunal claiming the supermarket giant unfairly dismissed her.
During an investigation by Dunnes, Ms Perenc admitted selling a bottle of wine to the girl without asking her for ID on the morning of May 30, 2013.
Lorna Rafter, human resources manager at the St Stephen's Green branch of Dunnes, said Ms Perenc, described as an "excellent employee" in her annual assessment, had admitted her mistake and shown remorse.
However she said the supermarket has a "zero tolerance" approach to selling alcohol to minors.
Mandate divisional organiser Dave Mahon, who was representing Ms Perenc, put it to Ms Rafter that his client, a Polish national, had raised concerns about her ability to understand all that was said during the investigation.
"I had worked with her for almost three years prior...I never found any communication barrier between her and myself.
"I didn't feel at any stage she didn't understand the questions put to her," said Ms Rafter.
No prosecution arose from the garda sting and instead Dunnes was issued with a caution. Mr Mahon pointed out there were also no financial consequences of Ms Perenc's mistake as the supermarket was not fined.
The tribunal heard that it is Dunnes policy for staff to ask for proof of age from any customer seeking to buy alcohol who appears to be under the age of 23.
Staff are told to take time to look at the ID carefully, examine the photograph and date of birth, and ask themselves is the ID genuine.
Ms Rafter said the supermarket takes regulations governing the sale of alcohol "extremely seriously" and all staff are retrained in these every six months.
She told the tribunal that she carried out specific training on regulations around the sale of alcohol with Ms Perenc. Staff are also told that selling alcohol or tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 will result in summary dismissal.
She said it was not just for reasons of legal compliance that Dunnes takes the sale of alcohol so seriously, but also for reasons of "social responsibility".
During an internal investigation meeting, Ms Perenc was asked had she looked at the girl to assess whether or not she was under 23.
Ms Perenc told management: "She had her face down, I didn't see her properly. At the time I just didn't think to ask (for ID)."
It was also put to Ms Perenc "you know if there's a prosecution this could be in the papers".
Tribunal chairwoman Penelope McGrath put it to Ms Rafter there was "no badness" on Ms Perenc's part when she sold the wine to the teenager.
"I didn't say there was any badness, but I personally trained her not to be so careless with the sale (of alcohol)," replied Ms Rafter.
"I felt there was no consideration at all, no regard, no focus on the sale full-stop," she added.
The case was adjourned to May 20. The tribunal said it wants to see CCTV footage of the incident and also to hear from the garda who was over-seeing the undercover operation.