A DUNNES STORES worker who was sacked for selling alcohol to an underaged teen has been awarded €16,000 in an unfair dismissal case.
In May 2013, till operator Anna Perenc who had worked for the company for more than six years, sold a bottle of wine to a 16 year old.
A garda made herself known to the woman within seconds of the sale and revealed that it had been part of a sting operation. She was told that her action had brought the possibility of a prosecution on her own head as well as that of her employer.
The garda in question told the tribunal that the woman was “shocked” when she was formally cautioned and realised the seriousness of her mistake.
In an Employment Appeals Tribunal decision by Chairperson Penelope McGrath, it is noted that CCTV footage shows there was “no hesitation” on the part of the sales assistant.
“The claimant quite simply did not register the youth of the purchasing person and it was only after the sale had been completed that the full import of the calamitous transaction became apparent,” McGrath said in her finding.
A number of meetings were held between Perenc and management at the store following the incident and she was eventually dismissed on the grounds of “gross misconduct”.
Minutes from these meetings describe colleagues as being there on “behalf” of the woman, though the tribunal said they were in fact only there to accompany her and stayed mostly quiet. Notes taken at the meetings demonstrate that the woman said little herself and “was neither confident nor articulate”.
The tribunal found her understanding of the meetings and questions she was being asked were limited because English is not her first language. Based on this, it ruled the meetings were contrary to her entitlement to a fair hearing.
McGrath also noted that the opportunity to appeal the dismissal was “extremely unsatisfactory amounting as it did to a one line reading ‘having considered all the matters, I find the sanction to be fair and I uphold the appeal’”.
The tribunal awarded Parenc €16,000 under the Unfair Dismissals Act.