An unfair dismissal claim taken against An Post by a former employee who had wrongly assigned post for shredding has been rejected by the Workplace Relations Commission.
According to a decision published by the WRC this week, Sue Gallagher was dismissed by An Post on August 15, 2014, on the grounds that she “had mistreated 21 items of mail” and that An Post “had lost trust and confidence in her as an employee and that such actions constituted gross misconduct.”
The Employment Appeals Tribunal heard evidence from Ms Gallagher’s former colleague at An Post’s customer correspondence bureau, who said that the claimant complained of being singled out when, on March 8, 2013, their manager raised concerns about post being bagged, punched, or forwarded to the wrong sections.
The manager approached Ms Gallagher and asked why some items of post were assigned by her for shredding.
The witness claimed Ms Gallagher subsequently phoned her father and discussed the witness with him.
The witness said there was a “horrible atmosphere” in the office for some time and that Ms Gallagher “made sniping comments and remarks during the course of telephone conversations” such as “they’re going to get what’s coming to them”, “they’re here now”, “they are rats”, and “they are sewer rats”.
She said Ms Gallagher handled “miscellaneous post, non-workflow post, repayments, items for central office, and cheques from the public”.
Another former colleague also recalled the March 8 incident, and said she saw the manager “approach the claimant holding some documents in her hand and heard her enquire why the claimant was shredding these documents”. She said “she was told to do it” but when her manager enquired as to who told Ms Gallagher to do so, she replied “it didn’t matter”.
Ms Gallagher’s manager told the tribunal that in January 2013, the chief executive of An Post “complained that post had been incorrectly addressed to him and that postal items were going astray” and that by March “the company received numerous complaints from customers in relation to documents that had been sent to the post office but were now missing”.
The manager became suspicious when she saw Ms Gallagher shred documents from her green waste bin, and investigated further.
The manager of central operations told the tribunal he asked Ms Gallagher to meet with him on March 8 to discuss the matter. “He said that the claimant did not want to discuss the issue but wanted to ring her father and go home,” states the WRC report. She was subsequently suspended on full pay.
She was later dismissed following company investigations into the matter.
In her evidence, Ms Gallagher “said that she believed another member of staff could maliciously have put items in her green bin when she had been out of the room and that, as she suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, she frequently has to visit the ladies’ toilet”.
She said she felt “like a common criminal” when she was escorted from the premises following the March 8 meeting and that she felt “in limbo” as she was not contacted again by An Post until the following June.
Ms Gallagher told the tribunal “that she knew she was innocent and that an allegation had been put to her that she had placed 21 items in the green box with the intention of shredding them but the truth was that she had not done this”.
The tribunal found that An Post “conducted a reasonable, fair, and detailed investigation into the circumstances giving rise to the dismissal and that the claimant was given every opportunity to defend her position”.
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