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Employee summarily dismissed for postal error awarded €15,000

Workplace Relations Commission: ADJ-00006889, A Worker v A Retail Company

Facts
The Complainant commenced employment in the legal department on the Respondent. As part of her job, she handled confidential information on a day-to-day basis. In error the Complainant sent two sets of financial information to the wrong accountancy firm. She was informed of her error when she was called in to the Head of the Legal Department’s office and was told what she had done and that she was dismissed. The Complainant made a request that the information be made available to her so that her legal representative can assess the level of confidentially that attached to them. This request was denied. The Complainant was told to pack up her things and go.

The Respondent stated that the Complainant was dismissed for gross misconduct, that there was a breach of trust and confidence when she sent the confidential information to a third party in error. The Respondent did not hold an investigation or disciplinary hearing, or allow the Complainant an opportunity to state her case or appeal the decision. The Respondent alleged that the Complainant, in error, distributed highly sensitive information to a third party. Nobody, other than the Respondent and the accountancy firm knows what was sent it error. The information was not disclosed to the Complainant or the adjudicator. Furthermore, the Respondent stated that there were no financial repercussions from the action but that the potential financial repercussions could have been catastrophic.

The Complainant was handed two sets of information and was told to post them, by the instructions of a solicitor. The solicitor apportioned 100% of the blame for the error onto the Complainant without even assessing whether or not he contributed to it.

Conclusion
In was held that, while the error may have eroded the trust the Respondent had in the Complainant, the decision to dismiss her summarily was grossly unfair. It was a situation that warranted an investigation, particularly into the instructions the Complainant received from the solicitor and the actual level of sensitivity of the documentation. The Complainant should have been afforded the opportunity to state her case and give the benefit of a full disciplinary process. The dismissal was disproportionate and the Complainant was awarded €15,000.

For any queries, please contact Anne O’Connell Solicitors at info@aocsolicitor.ie or +353 1 2903580

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