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Worker wins right to bonus which was revoked after she drove through a car park barrier to collect children

The woman received an eight-month written warning as a result of her actions.

File photo
File photo
Image: Atstock Productions via Shutterstock

A WOMAN HAS won the right to receive her annual bonus payment after the store she worked in revoked it as a result of a written warning following an incident in which she drove around the car park barrier before it lifted as she was late to collect her children.

The woman, a store assistant at a health and beauty retail store, took her case to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) after her written warning expired in October 2017.

The WRC adjudicated that a “verbal warning would have been a more appropriate sanction” and that the woman’s eligibility for her annual bonus should be unaffected by the first written warning which has now expired.

Evidence

The complainant’s case says that at around 2.20pm on 11 January 2017, she arrived at the car park beside her workplace, discovered that she had mislaid her parking ticket and became stressed because she had to collect her three children, aged two, six and 12 from school.

She said that she explained her issue to the car park attendant and offered to pay €6, the discounted daily rate required to get the car out. The car park staff member refused to accept the money until she provided her car registration number.

The woman told the staff member that she was late to collect her children, did not know her registration number and that she would provide it to him the following day.

When this offer was refused, the woman told the attendant that she had to leave and that she was concerned about the safety of her children.

While at the barrier, the woman received a call from her son asking her where she was. She said that she became stressed and fearful for her children, drove the car around the barrier and left the car park.

The attendant sent a letter of complaint about the woman’s actions to the respondent of the store on the same day. They submitted CCTV footage of the alleged incident.

The respondent claimed that the woman used “foul language” during the incident.

Written warning

The complainant was summoned to an investigation meeting on 20 January 2017. Here, the respondent said she did not dispute that she had used inappropriate language during the incident.

The matter was advanced to a disciplinary hearing which took place on 1 February 2017 and was conducted by the store respondent of one of the store’s other branches.

It was at this meeting that she was issued a first written warning to remain on her file for eight months. The eight months have now elapsed. She was also advised that she would lose a bonus payment of €850 due to her having received a written warning.

Disputes

The woman claims that the sanction was unfair because the incident occurred outside her workplace and her working hours.

She noted that the warning was for eight months, yet the bonus runs over 12 months.

The respondent said that the payment of a bonus was conditional on a performance appraisal which took place in August for the year dating between 31 August 2016 and 31 August 2017.

“Irrespective of the first written warning, the complainant didn’t meet the performance standard necessary to earn the bonus. An employee can appeal the outcome of an appraisal,” the respondent said.

Verdict

In her findings, WRC adjudication officer Maire Mulcahy noted that this was a once off incident of unacceptable behaviour which did not reflect well on the complainant.

Mulcahy acknowledged that the woman was under self-induced pressure to collect her children.

She said that the respondent’s disciplinary procedure allows for two steps before the provision of a written warning. Step one is a verbal caution or letter or concern. Step two is a verbal warning of six months’ duration.

“The respondent’s decision to issue a first written warning automatically results in the loss of a bonus of approximately €850 for an entire year. The respondent advised that the complainant did not meet the performance standard required to merit a bonus of the 2017 year aside from the incident on 11 January 2017,” Mulcahy said.

She has determined that a verbal warning would have been a more appropriate sanction.

Mulcahy determined:

I recommend that her eligibility for the bonus should be unaffected by the first written warning which has now expired.

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