24 May Dismissal Unfair Despite CCTV Confirming Theft
A recent case published by the WRC confirmed the high standards required to ensure that the principles of natural justice are fully adhered to during workplace investigations (Ref ADJ – 00004127)
The employee had left the store where she worked with a bottle of wine that hadn’t been paid for and which was captured clearly on CCTV. The employee was suspended pending an investigation which was conducted by the Compliance Manager and the Security Officer who had pursued her when she left the store with the wine in her handbag. The employee was then dismissed at a disciplinary hearing on foot of the investigation findings as her explanation that she had made a genuine mistake was not accepted and was deemed incompatible with the CCTV evidence. At the WRC hearing the employees Trade Union representative submitted that the employee had an exemplary record and that the investigation and dismissal procedures had been unfair including the fact that she was not afforded representation when she was suspended and that relevant documentation in respect of the allegations was not issued on time. In particular, it was also contended that the Security Officer who was involved in the investigation had already made up his mind as he had said to the employee after apprehending her with the wine “admit it you stole the wine” even though she said she had made a mistake.
The Adjudication Officer agreed that the Security Officer had a pre-determined view on the matter that the employee was guilty and that the employee had not been afforded her right to an unbiased investigation hearing. The Adjudication Officer also noted that whilst the CCTV confirmed that the employee had left the store without paying for the wine, it did not indicate in any manner the intent of the employee in doing so.
The employee was awarded €4,000 as it was found she had also contributed to her dismissal through her own actions.
The case highlights once again the need for employers to ensure that fair and impartial investigations are conducted into any allegations of alleged workplace misconduct, as well as the need to interrogate CCTV footage appropriately and not to accept it at face value.