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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 15 November, 2018
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Sister awarded €32,000 after being unfairly sacked from her own family's jewellery company

The woman had refused to operate the till at the business as she did not want to be party to ‘fraudulent activities the directors (her siblings) may have been conducting’.

shutterstock_748099447 Source: Shutterstock/Khmelnitskaia Evgeniia

A WOMAN HAS been awarded €32,200 after being deemed to have been unfairly dismissed by her employer – her own family’s jewellery company.

The woman in question took her case to the Workplace Relations Commission after being removed from her position with the company in February 2017.

She is one of a number of siblings, who found herself made a shareholder within the company when their father died.

The woman worked 25 hours per week for the company in a variety of capacities, with silver-soldering being her primary responsibility, and her gross remuneration per week was €550.

From October 2016, she alleged that she had noticed her net pay, ie after tax, had reduced from €465 to €450.

This was further to information that came to her notice – that the directors of the company had been paid significant sums in 2014 and 2015 without shareholder approval.

Pay cut

She claimed, regarding her pay cut, that she was told by her brother that she would not be receiving the shortfall and that she ‘would regret it if she pursued the matter’.

In April 2016 she had stated a reluctance to operate the business’ till as she “did not want to be responsible for any fraudulent activities the directors may have been conducting, such as the under-declaration of company funds to the revenue commissioners”.

When returning from a period of sick leave in November 2016 she again insisted she would not operate the till ‘in her newly appointed position as shareholder’.

On 3 November she was locked out of the office. Eleven days later she was informed that she would be disciplined if she ‘continued to refuse instruction’.

On 18 November she was locked out of the workplace by the operations director for the company.

She was subsequently informed that she had been suspended with pay on the basis that she was trying to ‘shut down the business’.

For her part, she claimed that she had been suspended due to her making a protected disclosure to the WRC with regard to the ‘inappropriate use of company funds’ at the business.

Dismissal

In February 2017, the company posted the woman’s P45 to her and told her that her complaint form to the WRC effectively stood as her resignation – dated 18 November 2016.

She countered that she could not have resigned or dismissed herself given she had been suspended by the company at that time.

The company for its part argued that the woman and her sister had been ‘becoming disruptive’ over the past year in that they were unwilling to take instruction from the company’s directors.

It claimed that the woman and other parties orchestrated an attack on the workplace on 18 November 2016, which constituted the targeting of the company’s largest customer with which it did 40% of its business.

It further stated that they had blocked the entrances to the premises on the same date, and had physically and verbally assaulted members of staff.

The company said that one of the party had assaulted the managing director, while the complainant urged them on. They had then occupied the jewellery showroom necessitating a call to authorities, they claimed.

Protected disclosure

It said that the woman had not been dismissed, but rather had voluntarily resigned, per the protected disclosure to the WRC which was submitted on the 12 December 2016.

In his decision, WRC adjudicating officer Michael Hayes said he was satisfied that the protected disclosure to the WRC was not at odds with the current allegation of unfair dismissal.

He said that, post 18 November, it was incumbent on the company to clarify with the complainant as to where she stood given it had committed to an investigation of the events of 18 November.

Instead, it had posted her her P45, something which ‘amounts to a dismissal’, he said.

“That dismissal was flawed in that it lacked any procedural fairness and therefore it was unfair,” he said.

He accordingly awarded the woman compensation of €30,000, with a further €2,200 payable with regard to her statutory minimum notice amount.

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