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Tesco ordered to pay former worker €41,000 after her dismissal for not paying for a fried breakfast

The award was made by the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

shutterstock_67891129 Source: Shutterstock/Joerg Beuge

A FORMER WORKER at a Tesco café outlet in Wexford has been awarded €41,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) following her dismissal for failing to immediately pay for food she consumed there.

Lisa Kinsella was dismissed from work on 19 August 2013 after CCTV footage showed her and others had consumed food and drink on separate occasions at the café without immediately paying for them.

At the EAT tribunal hearing held on eight days between April and October 2015 Kinsella claimed that she had later paid for her meals  as was common practice among employees at the time.

Ms Kinsella had initially appealed her dismissal via Tesco HR on 16 separate grounds, none of which were upheld. Three other employees were dismissed at the same time as Ms Kinsella for the same reason.

Employees at the branch were not allowed carry cash or purses in the café at the time per company policy, as such paying for food from the tip plate was the norm.

When the issue regarding non-payment was first brought to management’s attention by a security guard via CCTV footage an investigation duly followed, with a separate manager from a Wicklow branch eventually being asked to bring disciplinary procedures against the four employees.

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Kinsella was initially brought into a meeting with her manager with just  15 minutes notice on 2 June, 2013, where the following allegations were put to her, among others.

22/05/13 – Approx. 10.40 – Goes to breakfast and get 2 eggs, beans, toast, rasher, 2 sausages and a coffee. No payment made at till.23/05/13 – Approx. 11.20 – Gets a sausage, rasher, beans, egg, toast, hash brown and A tea / coffee. No payment made at till.

She was subsequently suspended with pay prior to her dismissal two months later.

At the Tribunal she insisted that she had always paid for food consumed after the fact, that this had been standard policy under a previous manager, and that if she had known what she was doing was wrong she would not have done it for fear of losing her job.

She and others had become accustomed to the practice of paying for food after the fact, chiefly because they were not allowed to carry cash on them while on duty.

Kinsella had been employed at the Tesco branch since 2001 and had an exemplary work record.

Compensation

The Tribunal in its decision found that Kinsella was dismissed under charges, specifically fraud and theft, of which she had not been notified of previously.

It found that her exemplary employee record had not been taken into account, nor had the fact that paying after the fact appeared to be customary for employees of the café given they were not allowed carry cash with them on duty.

It further found that the practice of ‘grazing’ by employees on duty could have been stopped by simply telling them it was against company policy, rather than by holding disciplinary procedures, and that Tesco’s honesty and purchase policies are not sufficiently clear when it comes to the consumption of food by employees.

It also emerged that sufficient efforts to substantiate Kinsella’s claims that she had paid for all food consumed after the fact were not made, either by asking her fellow employees or by checking CCTV footage or till rolls in a sufficiently comprehensive fashion.

Accordingly, the Tribunal found that the company’s dismissal of Kinsella was disproportionate, and awarded her €41,000 in compensation.

Read: There’s only one winner in the battle between SuperValu and Tesco

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