€5k for cleaner fired over unpaid chocolate

A firm here has been left counting the cost after firing a cleaner who failed to pay for a bar of chocolate at a staff canteen.

This follows the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ordering a facility services provider to pay the cleaner €5,600 after finding that the company unfairly dismissed the worker.

The male employee was summarily dismissed on January 26 of last year after failing to initially pay for the bar of chocolate at the staff canteen in October 2015.

The canteen has a cashless system and workers purchase items with a card. The employee took a bar of chocolate without initially paying as he had only 35c left on his card.

The man sat down to have his break and it was only after he was approached by a canteen employee over not paying for the bar of chocolate that he got a colleague’s card and paid for the chocolate bar.

No parties are named in the case and in her ruling, WRC Adjudication Officer, Aideen Collard found that the firm’s Sector Director’s decision to dismiss the worker at the disciplinary hearing to be a fundamental procedural flaw “and indicative of predetermination without taking any time to consider his responses or whether a lesser form of disciplinary action would be appropriate”.

Counsel on behalf of the worker submitted that the company’s dismissal “was totally disproportionate to the alleged conduct in question”.

It was accepted that he had only taken a bar of chocolate which he had paid for before leaving the canteen, and this could not amount to theft.

In his evidence to the WRC, the worker confirmed that he had no intention of stealing the chocolate bar, having sat near the tills and had paid for it before leaving the vicinity.

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