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Woman awarded €4k in unfair dismissal case after taking 'old and smelly basket' from work

She said she took the basket from a rubbish dump at work without permission and brought it home to hold flowers.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/ANGHI

A FOOD FIRM has been ordered to pay almost €4,000 to a low paid canteen worker after unfairly dismissing the woman for taking an “old and smelly” basket from the workplace.

In the case, the woman said she took the basket from a rubbish dump at work without permission and brought it home to use it to hold flowers.

The woman, on a weekly wage of €413 (about €21,000 a year), had worked with the food manufacturing firm for 14 years with an unblemished record before the incident on 18 August last.

Finding that the woman was unfairly dismissed, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer Eugene Hanly found that given the item in question and the circumstances in the case “the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate and so the punishment does not fit the crime”.

However, Hanly also found that the employee “contributed substantially” to the dismissal.

Making the award, Hanly has ordered the unnamed firm to pay €1,500 for unfair dismissal and an additional €2,478 under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act.

After the incident last August, the woman was suspended pending an investigation where the company accused her of taking company property without permission, deliberately concealing the basket from security, throwing it over a fence and placing it in her car.

Avoiding security 

The company argued that the dismissal was fair. The firm stated that the worker saw the basket and moved it to the canteen and devised a plan to get it to her car.

The firm said that she parked her car away from its normal place and the security station as part of her plan.

In her argument before the WRC, the woman accepted that she took the basket and put it in her car. She said: “The basket was old and smelly and was on a rubbish dump.”

She was aware that employees can’t take company property and that it was wrong to take it. The woman said she knew that the basket would not fit through the security stiles so she threw it over the fence.

The woman said she accepts she was wrong to take the basket, but that the dismissal was unfair. She said the taking of the basket was a misunderstanding, not theft.

The woman said she tried to mitigate her loss and supplied a list of 22 job applications. She said she also called into shopping centres for work without success.

In his findings, Hanly found that the worker identified the basket and devised a strategy to remove it without permission.

He said: “I am satisfied on the balance of probability that she deliberately concealed this basket from the Respondent and threw it over the fence so as to avoid security.”

I find that she parked her car adjacent to where she would throw the basket in a deliberate attempt to avoid security and conceal the removal of the basket.

Hanly also found her argument that the basket was rubbish was not hers to make and that it was not her decision to determine the value or otherwise of the basket.

However, he also found that the company failed to adequately consider alternatives to dismissal and found that the dismissal was unfair on substantive grounds.

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About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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