WRC awards €17,500 to former Lidl employee for dismissal over discounted baked goods

A SUPERMARKET MANAGER who was fired for taking a discount on expired bakery products that should have been written off has been fined more than €17,500 for unfair dismissal.

Arkadiusz Grzyb had worked for Lidl for almost 10 years and was working as a deputy store manager when he was accused of manipulating the company’s “no waste” policy to steal bakery products in October 2020.

The Worker Relations Commission (WRC) heard that this policy provided for price reductions on foods that were on their best before date.

It applied to meat products, but there was confusion among staff as to whether it also applied to bakery products.

On two occasions, Grzyb bought stale items from the store’s bakery at a discounted price of 20 cents each.

The total price of the items was €7.20, but they had to be canceled and removed.

He had closed the bakery 25 minutes earlier because the products were stale and he wanted to allow the staff to finish at 9:15 p.m.

Grzyb said this was common practice at some of the other stores where he had worked.

It pointed out that there had been no economic loss to the company and that it had, in fact, made a profit on its shares, since it had paid for goods that would otherwise have been thrown away.

An investigative meeting was held in December 2020, in which Grzyb admitted to a number of cash management and inventory control procedures.

A subsequent disciplinary hearing found that he had breached procedures and concluded that there had been a fundamental breach of trust. He was dismissed on March 15, 2021, and the decision was upheld on appeal.

In his submission to the WRC, the complainant claimed that his employer’s conduct had not been reasonable, as his actions had not amounted to gross misconduct and his reasonable excuse had not been taken into account.

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He maintained that the investigation had been contradictory and predetermined, noting that he did not know that he was being charged with theft until he received the investigation report.

In her decision, WRC adjudication officer Davnet O’Driscoll said there was little consideration in the process of Grzyb’s explanation of non-compliance with procedures or evidence from other employees of a lack of clarity in the practice of discount.

His years of good service and the low value of the goods involved had also been overlooked. He also noted that no alternative to dismissal had been considered.

“In all the circumstances, I believe that the dismissal sanction falls outside the range of reasonable responses and is disproportionate,” O’Driscoll said.

It found that Grzyb had been unfairly dismissed but that he “undoubtedly contributed to his dismissal”. He was awarded compensation of €23,461, but this was reduced to €17,596 in view of his contribution to the result.

O’Driscoll also ordered Lidl to pay the plaintiff €3,615 for four weeks’ notice, bringing the total amount to €21,212.

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