A GENERAL MANAGER at a car dealership here who created a “bogus” sales invoice over the sale of an €18,000 van said that he was made to feel like a criminal over “the error of judgement”.
The un-named general manager made his comment at a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing and WRC Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath has ruled that the worker was unfairly dismissed and has ordered the un-named firm to pay the man €40,000.
The manager was earning €100,000 per annum in his role at a firm described as “an enormous multi-million, pan European company” by Ms McGrath.
In the case, the manager was approached by a junior employee, ‘CJ’ on sourcing a commercial van for her husband.
The manager identified a van with a price of €18,000 but ‘CJ’ didn’t have the funds to finance the 10% deposit.
In order to overcome that, the manager gave the van a fictional book value of €19,800 and deducted a fictional deposit of €1,800 which was never paid and submitted a financing package application which constituted a 100% finance package.
The paperwork was submitted in early July 2016.
However, Ms McGrath said that “there can be no doubt that the proposed transaction raised alarm bells as soon as it left the shop floor”.
A manual invoice created by the manager did not match the Hire Purchase Agreement presented to the car dealership’s financing company.
Ms McGrath said the creation of the manual invoice “seems to have been a crude act which was always going to jar with the truth of the value contained in the agreement”.
The representative of the financing company spotted the discrepancy and alerted the car-dealership.
The manager came forward to say that he had created the invoice but said that he was “horrified” in the way he was treated by his employer as the incident was investigated.
In his evidence, the manager said that he believed he had genuinely assisted a staff member and that other members of staff knew the rationale behind what he had done and that they never believed that there was wrongdoing.
The manager was of the genuine view “that he had gained nothing and that his employer had lost nothing”.
The manager was however dismissed for gross misconduct on 18 October 2016 where he was told in his dismissal letter that his actions “amounted to gross misconduct in light of company policy and given that you are in a position of trust as a Senior Manager. Through your action in breaching company policy the company has lost all trust and confidence in you”.
In her findings, Ms McGrath said: “On balance, I would have to find that the Complainant may well have committed an act which on the face of it could constitute conduct which would justify a dismissal.
She said: “He has never denied that the preparation of the invoice was a misconduct – though has maintained it be not serious misconduct. However, I cannot accept that the process and procedures utilised to arrive at the point of dismissal were anything other than flawed and unfair.”
She said: “This is an enormous multi-million, pan-European company which must be expected to operate to the highest standards and has apparently failed to so operate in every conceivable way.”
The senior manager appealed the dismissal internally and the dismissal was reduced to him being demoted within the workplace.
Ms McGrath said she has “to accept the complainant’s view that too much damage had been done at that point. He described being made to feel like a criminal”.
The car dealership told the WRC that the decision to dismiss and demote on appeal the manager “was justified and reasonable in all the circumstances”.
The firm stated that the wrong-doing “required a serious sanction”.
The company stated that the reduction of sanction on appeal was a genuine offer which was rejected by the complainant at his own peril.
Ms McGrath reports that the worker “has moved on with his life and has obtained employment elsewhere albeit at a reduced rate”.
Ms McGrath said that the manager was earning €100,000 at the car dealership and now has a job where he earns €40,000.
Ms McGrath said that in assessing the quantum of award, “I have remained mindful of the fact that the complainant himself conceded that he had made a mistake and whilst he has minimised the mistake the facts are that it caused an immediate and negative reaction”.