Oddbins wine expert sacked after taking a holiday wins payout

Andrew Phelan

A WINE consultant claimed she was effectively fired by her bosses at a south Dublin store when she was taken off the roster following a holiday.

Dominika Topolska (29) also claimed the atmosphere in the wine shop turned "bad" after a new manager took over and started "talking about staff behind their backs".

She said she was offered no more working hours and was removed from the roster after she took a week's holiday, and has been unemployed since.

Oddbins reached a settlement with Ms Topolska after initially contesting her claim for constructive dismissal. An Employment Appeals Tribunal heard the parties had settled their dispute for an undisclosed sum, with Ms Topolska also leaving with a reference from her former employers.

The company had maintained it still considered Ms Topolska an employee and said the onus was on her to contact Oddbins and make herself available for work.

Ms Topolska had been a full-time employee at the Churchtown branch of the store from June 2006, but switched to what she believed was a more flexible contract. She was a student of comparative studies in religion and anthropology, and had qualified as a wine consultant, advising customers in the shop.

Her signed contract was for 39 hours per week. In 2007, she took up work as a consultant for the now-disbanded National Committee on Racism and Interculturalism.

In early 2008, her manager at the time, Ben Acres, "happily agreed" verbally, to switch her to a reduced-hours contract. Three months later, there was a change in management and Joanna Murphy took over.

Ms Topolska said staff were frequently criticised and the atmosphere became "bad".

Oddbins HR manager Ayo Akintola told the tribunal it had been up to Ms Topolska to contact the company to arrange working hours while she was on a "zero-hours" contract.

Tribunal chairman Mark O'Connell said: "I don't believe that you regarded her as an employee -- it's not credible."