A LIMERICKMAN has been awarded €45,000 from the Employment Appeals Tribunal, after he was unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct, as his employers believed he was selling company products on eBay to rival firms.
The tribunal heard that Kenneth Walker, of Lisnagry, county Limerick, was unfairly dismissed from Maplin Electronics Ltd on the Childers Road, after they believed he removed hard drives from the computer store and placed them on his eBay account for sale.
Suspicions were aroused after hard drives went missing in the store in February 2009, and despite an extensive search they could not be located.
One of the employees said he knew the claimant had an eBay account and saw that there was three hard drives for sale on his account, the same type of those that were missing, under the account name Woodenbright.
The items had been delivered to the store in December 2008 and January 2009, and the tills showed they had not been sold.
On a later date another employee came into the store and found the office computer was open on the eBay account of Woodenbright.
The claimant - an assistant manager at the time - was called to an investigation meeting, and admitted that he used that account.
But he said the items he had for sale on that eBay account were purchased before Christmas from a supplier in Hong Kong. He was suspended with full pay pending a further investigation.
At a disciplinary hearing he was accompanied by a solicitor, and said he put some personal items on sale online to pay off a small loan for his wedding. He handed over invoices showing the dates he had put the items on eBay, but was unable to furnish the receipt for these hard drives at that time, saying that the person he was dealing with was on holiday for the Chinese New Year.
He was selling the items for €90, while the company sold them for €150.
However, he was adamant that he was only selling personal items, and that this trading was not part of a business in competition with the company he worked for. Invoices were later produced at an appeal hearing, showing the purchase of these hard drives from Hong Kong in October 2008.
However, the regional manager was influenced by the fact that these had not been produced earlier, and questioned the validity of the documents as they did not have a company name or shipping information.
The tribunal found that the company adopted a “closed mind” to the case, “rendering the investigation inadequate and unfair”.
Furthermore, they said CCTV footage was not examined and that the company had fallen below the standard of a “reasonable employer” in taking into account a number of aspects to the case.
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