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Shop Assistant awarded €11,500 for Dismissal re Selling Alcohol to a Minor

On 2nd April 2019, the WRC found the dismissal of the Claimant for selling alcohol to a minor was disproportionate and unfair and awarded the  Claimant €11,500.

Facts

On 12 September 2017 the Claimant sold alcohol to a minor who was acting on behalf of a Garda alcohol purchase test. As the sale of alcohol to minors is a criminal offence that carries a serious sanction for the shop assistant as well as the retailer, an investigation meeting was held on  2nd August 2017.

Following the investigation a disciplinary meeting took place on 4th September 2017. At this meeting the Claimant stated that she was busy on her till, and she was trying to finish up and close.

The Respondent has a policy called “Challenge 25” which requires staff to ask customers for identification when purchasing alcohol if they appear to be under 25 years old. The Claimant attended two brief training sessions on the Challenge 25 policy in October 2013 and September 2016. Both trainings gave no guidance on what an employee should look for in assessing a customer’s age regardless of the fact that the Claimant was Chinese.  When the Claimant sold alcohol to the young man she thought he was over 25.

On 12th September 2017 the Claimant was called to a meeting where she was dismissed for gross misconduct.

Decision  

From a procedural point of view the Adjudicator was concerned that the Claimant had attended the meeting alone. Although the Respondent had told her she could bring someone with her the Claimant did not as   she did not think that she was going to be dismissed.

The Adjudicator also noted the fact that the Claimant only received two brief trainings for the Challenge 25 policy that does not give a guide in assessing a person’s age. When purchasing alcohol at the till the cash register asks the assistant if the customer is over 18. The Adjudicator highlighted that this is not the same as determining whether someone is under 25 and it seems that there is a mixed instruction here. The Adjudicator also appeared to take into account that the Claimant was Chinese.

The Adjudicator further noted that selling alcohol to a minor is a serious offence. Intentionally selling alcohol to a minor is gross misconduct. The Adjudicator accepted that the Claimant made a genuine mistake and she had no intention to sell alcohol to a teenager, it was the end of her shift, had left her till and was called back to her till. The Adjudicator stated in her decision that

“…it is my view that there must be a balance between the responsibility of the retailer and the capacity of a cashier to act as the “first and only line of defence”. “

She went on to state that “the task places an inordinate burden of responsibility to manage a serious risk on the most junior employee”.   

The Adjudicator found that the decision to dismiss the Claimant was disproportionate to the offence, having had a previously perfect record and a written warning would have been a reasonable outcome. The Adjudicator ordered to pay the Respondent €11,500 as a means of compensation for her unfair dismissal, which was 50% of her financial loss.

30th April 2019

https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2019/April/ADJ-00013597.html

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall

Fitzwilliam Place

Dublin 2www.aocsolicitors.ie

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