Tesco manager subjected to five-hour “interrogation” for processing own transactions and awarded €23,000

A Tesco night manager who said he was subjected to an “aggressive interrogation” that lasted more than five hours over “nebulous allegations” about breaches of checkout procedures has been fined €23,000 for a wrongful dismissal.

In an unfair dismissal case against the supermarket, the Workplace Relations Commission heard that Brian Scully admitted to using the checkout in violation of company policy – but said he forgot to pay for a pack of cigarettes.

Tesco argued that Mr Scully accepted that taking the cigarettes at a disciplinary hearing was “theft”.

It dismissed Mr Scully’s complaint against the Unfair Dismissal Act of 1977, saying the manager was legally fired on a finding of gross misconduct.

However, Mr. Scully’s legal team said that findings of fact against him at that time were made through a biased and procedurally flawed corporate investigation.

The tribunal heard that Mr Scully had arrived at the Portlaoise supermarket shop from 10pm on 23 July 2019 for a night shift, only to be told he had been suspended with pay and was ordered to attend an inquiry session the following afternoon .

The store’s general manager, identified only as “Mr. A” in the decision, said the company’s loss-prevention software, Target, found “unusual activity” there that gave rise to the investigation.

Mr. A said he showed Mr. Scully a series of receipts and asked him if he remembered the transaction.

“Invariably, [Mr Scully] did not remember the transaction and once replied: ‘No comment’,” said Mr. A.

The general manager said he showed a “corresponding CCTV still image” for each receipt – after which Mr Scully admitted to “serving himself or processing a refund for himself”.

Mr Scully told him he thought it “permissible to use a witness present, although on a number of occasions CCTV clearly showed no witness”.

Mr A said the applicant was also asked about a pack of cigarettes which Mr Scully took away free of charge on the night of 11 July 2019.

“I remember taking the cigarettes from the machine to pay for them between 7am and 8am when my wages were in my account. But with the task of getting the store ready for 8am, I forgot to pay her,” he was recorded in a transcript presented as evidence.

Mr. Maguire explained to the general manager that asking Mr. Scully, as a night worker, to attend the investigation the day after his usual shift was “akin to having him attend a meeting in the middle of the night.”

Mr A said he “shouldn’t have to investigate a senior manager for policy violations” as it was “a major unforgivable” for the sector and he hoped to get a “positive outcome” quickly and “get everyone back to their daily work.” “. .

“If I’m wrong, I’m wrong,” he added.

Roderick Maguire BL, who appeared for the complainant hired by Bolger White Egan and Flanagan Solicitors, said his client was given only 14 hours notice of the investigation into allegations of multiple breaches of company policy, with no “dates given” and “no indication … what the specific violations were”.

He said the inquiry was an “aggressive interrogation” and “not impartial” – adding that it took place in a “windowless room with only a few short breaks”.

“The specific allegations were never explicitly presented to the complainant at the meeting. The nebulous allegations were repeated from the start and the complainant was asked a series of questions about his actions. As the meeting progressed, it was clear from his responses that he was having increasing difficulty remembering certain contentious matters,” Mr Maguire told the tribunal.

He said the manager had “shown that he had pre-judged things” by stating at the investigative session that he “did not believe” the complainant had forgotten to pay for the cigarettes.

“This was an extremely serious matter…a senior retail executive who effectively faced an investigation into alleged theft, the outcome of which would have far-reaching consequences for his livelihood and reputation,” wrote Trial Officer Aideen Collard.

If he had been given time to prepare, his responses might have been different and the disciplinary sanction might have been less, she wrote.

Ms Collard added that Mr A. “took an interrogative approach” to the cigarettes and “expressed his disbelief” before making any findings – and that it was “extremely serious” that the applicant was only 14 hours was notified in advance “Insufficient”.

“Any evidence of prejudice will undermine confidence in a decision-making process,” Ms Collard wrote.

She added that during the trial, evidence of an expired verbal warning to Mr. Scully was “clearly relevant” and “may have influenced the decision to fire.”

She wrote that the process leading to Mr. Scully’s dismissal was “unfair in both material and procedural terms” and upheld his complaint.

“I am satisfied that he contributed greatly to the circumstances leading up to his release and the resulting losses,” she wrote, adding that Mr. Scully did “everything possible” to mitigate his losses at the hands of the search for a new job.

Ms Collard filed a lawsuit against Tesco for €23,363, a sum she had written equivalent to a quarter of the court’s maximum jurisdiction in the 104-week wages case.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/tesco-manager-subjected-to-five-hour-interrogation-over-processing-own-transactions-awarded-23000-42327079.html Tesco manager subjected to five-hour “interrogation” for processing own transactions and awarded €23,000

Fry Electronics Team

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