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Former Gallery worker wins compensation due to ‘defective procedures’

A former security officer at the National Gallery, fired for alleged gross breach of protocol, has been awarded €25,000, due to ‘defective procedures’ by the Gallery in investigating and dismissing the worker.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal found that though the Gallery was “defective in the procedures used or adopted to terminate the claimant’s employment”, the claimant, Mr David Fox, “contributed significantly” to his own dismissal.

The employee worked at the Gallery for 22 years, but was fired in 2012, when it emerged he sent emails, on a non secure line, to a colleague which contained information that was of a security sensitive nature. Five emails were sent between the claimant and a former colleague who had been dismissed previously following an incident at the Gallery – about a submission to a Rights Commissioner.

The employee  was asked for help in preparing the submission by the former employee who was a non-Irish national. The employee said he felt obliged to help and that he never thought he was putting the Gallery at risk and that he was helping another person, he recognised in hindsight he was wrong to do it.

INVESTIGATION

A security officer was alerted to the content of the emails by IT staff. The emails seemingly named people, companies, camera areas and talked about security cover. One of the emails was sent to an incorrect address.

The investigation was conducted by a librarian in the Gallery even though they had no experience in investigation or fact finding. She emailed the terms of reference of the investigation to the employee and interviewed everyone involved and came to the conclusion that the claimant’s actions “were ill advised, he breached IT policy and was the author of the five emails.”

The employee did not participate with the investigation as it was not conducted by his former line manager, claiming that procedures were not followed and “were made up as they went along.”

Though the tribunal found the Gallery’s procedures defective, it did not recommend reinstatement, favouring compensation instead. However, due to the employees significant contribution to the dismissal, the award was set at €25,000. (UD950/2012 – David Fox v National Gallery of Ireland)