A Longford woman sacked by her employer was found to have been unfairly dismissed following a recently held tribunal into the matter. She was subsequently given her job back. No monetary compensation was awarded.
Rachel Bermingham, Forthill, Newtowncashel, Co Longford brought the case against Marks & Spencer (Ireland) Ltd, 24-28 Mary Street, Dublin 1 for whom she worked as a store manager from October 2007.
The case centred around the actions of Ms Bermingham who in her capacity as manager allowed staff to purchase sale items before the store opened on a date in May 2009.
The tribunal heard that it was “strictly against store policy” for staff to purchase stock before the opening hours of the store. Another issue that emerged was that there was a “no tolerance policy” in the stores for using tills that are logged on in another employee’s name.
Marks & Spencer told the hearing that it dismissed Ms Bermingham on four grounds including two breaches of reservation of sale policy, breach of till procedures and engaging in shopping on company time.
Ms Bermingham said that she had worked at the company since October 2007 and that up to the time of her dismissal she had no previous disciplinary matters. Her performance was always “very good”, she added, a claim that was backed up by her performance review notes. She said she had returned from pregnancy related sick leave and was anxious to catch up on emails. She printed the sales list and briefed the staff on stock for mark down.
The hearing went on to establish that Ms Bermingham had received just one hour’s notice of an investigation, thereafter, and that she had been informed that the meeting was in respect of one issue only, yet when the meeting was held “several matters were raised, of which the claimant had no notice”.
“That disciplinary hearing was not objective as it was overseen by a person with whom the claimant had a past history - as was clear from the evidence given at the hearing,” it continued.
“The disciplinary hearing should have been overseen by an independent person who had no knowledge or past dealings with the claimant.”
In its determination, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) said that the dismissal was unfair.
“The claimant was a line manager and on the day in question was also duty manager for the store, which carried a heavy responsibility,” it added.
“In breach of the company policy she purchased and allowed other staff members to purchase sale items prior to the shop opening and in addition, she breached till operating procedures.”
During its deliberation, the EAT said that while the dismissal was unfair, Ms Bermingham did contribute to her own downfall by her actions “especially given her standing in the company”.