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€10K to employee dismissed for sending “inappropriate” emails

The Employment Appeals Tribunal awarded €10,000 in compensation to an employee who was dismissed for sending “inappropriate and derogatory” emails to a friend and work colleague during working hours, using one of her employer’s computers.

The background to the case is that while no formal complaint was made by any of those involved, the HR director decided that the incident merited disciplinary action and having completed the investigation, took the decision to dismiss the claimant.

The claimant confirmed that she had sent the emails in question to her friend, but never intended them to be seen by other people. She was very upset when she learned that the emails had been shown to colleagues.

The Tribunal concluded that the procedures adopted in dismissing the claimant were deficient and accordingly determined that the claimant was unfairly dismissed. The compensation award took into account the view of the Tribunal that the claimant had contributed to her dismissal.

The Tribunal noted that the HR director “did not explore the possibility of resolving the matter by having the claimant apologise to her colleagues,” but that the HR director did state to the Tribunal that the claimant had refused to apologise”. And accordingly the HR director had effectively been complainant, investigator and decision maker in her dismissal and therefore there had been an unfair procedure. (Elizabeth O’Connell v James A. Barry & Company – UD730/2010)