herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

€15k for woman fired for printing off boss's emails

a saleswoman who was sacked for printing off the private e-mails of her sales manager has won her case for unfair dismissal.

Michelle Fitzpatrick was dismissed from her job with the Westwood Club Ltd in Dublin following an investigation and disciplinary process in 2012.

She subsequently failed in an appeal against her dismissal.

An Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing in August was told that on August 6, 2012, Ms Fitzpatrick had viewed and printed e-mails from the private work e-mail of the company's sales manager.

A log from the company's IT department showed about 75 e-mails were viewed/printed in a six-and-a-half minute period.

The company submitted that these e-mails had been viewed and printed by Ms Fitzpatrick after the sales manager had left the work premises.

Her actions amounted to an erosion of trust, the company claimed.

Ms Fitzpatrick told the tribunal that she had been told to use a particular computer in the sales area as the other computer was broken.

She said that she did not log on to the computer as it was already logged on and she could not have viewed the e-mails otherwise.

'lies'

When the screen saver on the computer disappeared, the subject material showed her name.

She viewed the e-mail which contained three attachments. She accepted that she then printed off the e-mail and the attachments.

She told the Tribunal that she pressed the "print" button over and over again as she was angry as the attachments contained "lies" about her. She took the documentation home with her.

She agreed that she scrolled down on the computer to see if any other e-mails related to her.

She did not see any other such e-mails and she then printed her contract of employment.

She may have printed a further document concerning a written warning against her, but denied that she printed any other material from the computer.

Ms Fitzpatrick accepted that her actions were wrong but she was angry at the "lies" which had been written about her.

She accepted that she should have been subject to a disciplinary sanction but did not believe that she should have been dismissed.

The tribunal, in its finding just published, said that Ms Fitzpatrick's admissions were to her credit in assessing proportionality.

It had difficulty with the print log, which showed 75 commands within six-and-a-half minutes.

That would mean one print command every five seconds and the Tribunal noted that Ms Fitzpatrick had said that she kept pressing the print button because she was angry.

Importance

"To her credit the claimant admitted from the outset that she read and printed the e-mails and attachments and the tribunal attach great importance to this in assessing proportionality.

"Given that it was information relating to herself the Tribunal is not convinced by the 'erosion of trust' argument. The tribunal therefore finds that the dismissal was a disproportionate sanction", the EAT said.

It awarded Ms Fitzpatrick compensation of €15,000.

hnews@herald.ie

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