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Sacked Connacht Gold employee denies writing 'vulgar' comment on milk carton

Shop steward Conor Rafter was awarded €25,000 in compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007.

A FACTORY WORKER who was sacked for writing a comment about a colleague on the top of a milk carton has been awarded €25,000 in compensation.

Conor Rafter, a shop steward at Connacht Gold, was dismissed from his job after a distributor spotted what has been described as a “vulgar” message written on a carton that had left the factory.

The carton was one of 10 wrapped in cellophane, destined for a supermarket shelf.

A site manager had determined that he was responsible for the comment after the company engaged the services of a graphologist to analyse its handwriting.

The manager told the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) that CCTV footage showing the claimant taking a carton off the production run provided further evidence against him, though Rafter said he was only doing a quality check at the time.

A month after the incident, the claimant was called to a meeting where he was suspended on full pay pending further investigation.

Rafter denied the accusation and told the EAT that he had put his “heart and soul” into the company.

He said it was unfair that the same person who decided to dismiss him had carried out an investigation into the incident.

Rafter also said it was possible that the carton in question could have come from the production line of the previous day.

The company’s head of finance countered that the dismissal was fair because “it was only pure luck that the writing was found”.

‘Unblemished record’

In a recent judgement, the Employment Appeals Tribunal found that the evidence against the claimant was “far from conclusive”.

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All members of the EAT, having watched the CCTV footage provided by the company, unanimously agreed that it did not contain the evidence required to initiate disciplinary action.

The EAT also ruled that the incident would not have impacted on the respondent’s reputation as had been suggested.

It added that the claimant had an “unblemished record” in over 10 years of work with the company.

“It would appear that, contrary to the evidence furnished at the hearing, no consideration whatsoever was given to these matters, in either the initial investigation or the appeal hearing,” the EAT said, awarding the claimant compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007.

Read: Man ‘isolated, bullied and harassed’ by work managers awarded €20,000

Read: Dunnes worker sacked after being caught in garda sting selling wine to teen

About the author:

Catherine Healy

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