Unfair Dismissal – Saleswoman dismissed for reading and printing her manager’s emails awarded €15,000.00

A case involving a saleswoman who was dismissed for printing off  private e-mails from  her sales manager’s work account was recently heard before the EAT. The saleswoman won her case for unfair dismissal.

The employee was dismissed from her job with the Westwood Club Ltd in Dublin following an investigation and disciplinary process in 2012. She appealed the decision internally through the company but failed in an appeal against her dismissal.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal heard in August during the hearing of the matter that on 6 August 2012 that the employee in question had viewed and printed e-mails from the private work e-mail of the company’s sales manager. The company submitted that these e-mails had been viewed and printed by Ms Fitzpatrick after the sales manager had left the work premises and that her actions amounted to an erosion of trust. The employee told the tribunal that she had been instructed to use a particular computer in the sales area as the other computer was broken and she said that she did not log on to the computer as it was already logged on.

The employee explained that when the screen saver on the computer disappeared, the subject material showed her name. She viewed the e-mails which contained three attachments. She then printed off the e-mails. She told the Tribunal that she was angry as she contended the attachments contained lies about her. She took the documentation home with her.

The employee accepted that her actions were wrong but she was angry at what she contended were 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 and this sanction was disproportionate.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal in its finding said that admissions were to the employee’s credit in assessing proportionality. The Employment Appeals Tribunal held that “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 Employment Appeals Tribunal awarded the saleswoman compensation of €15,000.

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