Dismissal For Advising Customer To Forge Ex-Husband's Signature Upheld On Appeal

Author:Mr Bryan Dunne
Profession:Matheson
 
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Introduction

We provided an update in January 2019 in relation to a Workplace Relations Commission ("WRC") decision in which an employee of a bank was held to have been unfairly dismissed in circumstances where he told a customer to sign her ex-husband's name on a cheque made out to the two of them.

This decision was appealed to the Labour Court in Permanent TSB plc v Christopher Callan (UDD1968) and the Labour Court has overturned the WRC decision and found that the employee was not unfairly dismissed. This is a welcome outcome for financial services clients with employees operating under the Central Bank of Ireland's fitness and probity standards.

Background

The employee was employed as a Senior Customer Adviser in the bank, which was a "Controlled Function" role. He advised a customer to sign her ex-husband's name on the back of a bank draft in order for her to lodge the money into her sole bank account. The matter was referred to a disciplinary hearing in which the employee was found to have advised a customer to commit a fraudulent act. It was also found that he had breached a number of the bank's policies. The employee was dismissed for gross misconduct with immediate effect, which was upheld on appeal.

Decision of the WRC Adjudication Officer

The Adjudication Officer held that the decision to dismiss the employee was substantively and procedurally unfair, emphasising the fact that the employee was allowed to remain in his role, a position of trust and confidence, for a period of two months after the incident occurred and was not suspended with pay pending the investigation and disciplinary hearing. This seemed to undermine, in the Adjudication Officer's eyes, the bank's argument that it operated a zero-tolerance approach to such conduct. However, the Adjudication Officer did find that the employee had contributed substantially to his dismissal and only awarded the employee the equivalent of approximately four months' pay.

Arguments before the Labour Court on appeal

The employee made the same arguments before the Labour Court as he had previously made before the WRC. He relied on the fact that he had an unblemished record for over 10 years and that he was allowed to remain in his role for two months following the incident, without transfer or suspension. He also emphasised that he admitted his wrongdoing and apologised for the mistake. He argued that the sanction imposed was disproportionate in the circumstances of this case.

The bank...

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