EBay used ‘coercive tactics’ on employee

EBay "coerced" an Irish employee into signing an "incriminating" statement which was then used to dismiss him, a Rights Commissioner has found.

Eugene Hanly made the findings as he adjudicated on a wrongful dismissal claim taken by David Bell, a former employee of eBay’s Blanchardstown call centre.

In his report issued on May 2, Mr Hanly found that Mr Bell was wrongfully dismissed, was “subjected to coercive tactics”, and eBay’s position was “seriously in breach of natural justice and fair procedure”.

Mr Bell was dismissed in September last year, having worked at eBay for 10 months, after making the statement acknowledging he had issued two £25 vouchers to people who were not entitled to them.

In his submission to the commissioner, he said he was called into an impromptu meeting on August 13 chaired on speakerphone from the US by eBay’s Global Asset Protection director, John Mearls. He was initially told the meeting was about a fraud in Paypal but was then questioned about the eBay vouchers, which are normally issued to customers as a goodwill gesture.

Mr Bell acknowledged he may have issued a customer voucher through an employee a number of months previously. In addition, he recalled issuing a voucher to a relative who had a genuine complaint. It is eBay policy that staff cannot issue vouchers to relatives.

He said Mr Mearls then demanded he write the statement which was subsequently used in his dismissal. The statement said that he understood neither party was “entitled” to the vouchers and this had caused “a loss to eBay of £25” in each case. He was told he “would not be allowed to leave the meeting room without completing a written statement”. Mr Mearls also dictated part of the statement for him, he said.

The commissioner heard he was suspended and a disciplinary hearing was held nine days later, where Mr Bell’s eBay systems coach stated he was “very trustworthy” and had made “a stupid mistake” but that the process of issuing vouchers is treated “casually” and should be “looked at”.

Mr Bell was dismissed for gross misconduct and, in his dismissal letter, eBay categorised it as “unprofessional”, “dishonest”, and “fraudulent”. He did not attend an internal appeal after he could not find another employee to accompany him and eBay refused to let him bring a family member.

EBay chose not to attend the hearing telling the Labour Relations Commission it would “not be bound by any recommendation of the Rights Commissioner in this matter”.

The company submitted that the dismissal “was substantively and procedurally fair” and Mr Bell was “afforded natural justice and fair procedures at all times”.

Mr Hanly found Mr Bell had contributed to his dismissal, but the “punishment” did not “fit the crime”. He did not benefit “in any way” from issuing of the vouchers, and his coach had described his actions as “a stupid mistake”.

Mr Hanly recommended a payment of €15,000 in compensation and withdrawal of the dismissal letter

It is understood that, as yet, no compensation has been paid.


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