Restaurant worker lost job for 'grazing' on duty, tribunal told
A WORKER in a Dunnes Stores-operated restaurant was captured on CCTV eating chips and sausages before wiping her mouth with her sleeve while serving customers.
An Employment Appeals Tribunal was told that Christina Knowles admitted to eating the food but insisted she was testing it to ensure it was warm enough for her to serve.
She was also observed eating part of a cream cake but when challenged told management she was checking to see if it had gone off.
Ms Knowles, from Finglas in Dublin, was one of five restaurant staff who were dismissed from the Timepiece Restaurant in Dunnes in Dublin's Ilac Centre in July 2009 for consuming food while at work.
Store manager Philip Monroe told the tribunal that two meetings were held with Ms Knowles prior to her dismissal. At the first of these she accepted what she had done and didn't offer any explanation for her actions. But at a second meeting, held two days later, she said she was tasting the food.
"But from the video footage it was picking a product and eating and eating and eating. It was actually grazing; she was taking whole handfuls and eating from it," Mr Monroe said.
When asked why Ms Knowles was never given a warning that what she was doing was against company regulations, Mr Monroe replied: "If you see a bank robber outside the place, you don't tell him you can't rob banks."
In his evidence, the head of catering with Dunnes Stores, Cathal Breen, said the company had clear procedures for the testing of food products in the display areas of its restaurants which involve the use of a temperature probe.
"There is no other procedure to ascertain if a product is safe," he said.
Ms Knowles told the tribunal she was not aware her actions were against the company's procedures.
"A lot of the time we had customers complain they (chips and vegetables) were not cooked so obviously I had to check them," she said.
She said the temperature probes provided often did not work and added that her manager, who has since left the company, told her that she was allowed to take food and drinks. Representing Ms Knowles, Michael Meegan, of the Mandate trade union, told the hearing that the case was a breach of natural justice as the there was no outside adjudication on the process and there was no letter of appeal attached to Ms Knowles's letter of dismissal.
The tribunal has retired to consider a decision.