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News from the Courts: Dismissal letter prepared prior to disciplinary meeting

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has awarded €18,000 to an ex-employee of a meat processing and distribution plant as the dismissal was deemed to be unfair in all circumstances.

The employee had been seen – on CCTV – loading goods into his truck while on duty in the late evening or early hours of the morning. When asked about this, the employee said that the stock was for staff orders but that he had forgotten to pay for it. He offered to pay for the items, but the manager informed him that it was too late to do this. An independant investigation was launched, and a disciplinary process was initiated.

A meeting was arranged and a letter of dismissal was pre-prepared by the company – this letter was then handed to the employee at the end of the meeting.

The employee cited that he had been on medication and that this may have affected him forgetting to pay for the stock, however the company said that this actually constituted a further breach of trust as the employee should have notified the company that he was driving whilst on medication.

The EAT stated that the letter of dismissal was written prior to the meeting at which they were to make a decision on the employee’s employment – which clearly indicated that they had decided the issue prior to the meeting, and they had also decided that taking medication was an additional factor, but had not received medical evidence before deciding on dismissal.

The clear warning from this case is the absolute necessity to follow procedure, and to work through the disciplinary procedure step-by-step, ensuring that any third party can see that the company gave an employee the opportunity to state their case BEFORE taking a decision on any disciplinary sanction.

BMcN v O UD701/2013