A SENIOR KITCHEN employee at a four-star hotel in Limerick city has lost his livelihood over two paper cups of coffee powder.
Krzysztof Scislowski worked at the well-known Strand Hotel in Limerick city where he was employed as a chief kitchen steward and his duties included the supervision of staff, cleaning, maintenance of all cleaning equipment and to control the security of hotel stock and property.
However, the hotel sacked Scislowski after he admitted to taking two paper-cups of coffee because he liked the brand of coffee and it wasn’t available in the hotel canteen.
Scislowski sued for unfair dismissal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has found that the Strand Hotel’s decision to sack the man was fair.
When initially confronted with the allegation over the two paper cups of coffee powder after two managers discovered the items in a locker and bag search, Scislowski made up a story that he had purchased the coffee at a shop the previous evening and the glass coffee jar bought had broken forcing him to transfer the powder to the two paper cups.
However, Scislowski admitted at a third investigation meeting held by the hotel to taking the coffee from the hotel’s dry store.
Employed at the hotel since 2007, Scislowski explained that he had not previously told the truth as he feared no one would believe him. He only wanted the coffee for his own use at work and did not intend to take it home.
In reply to questions from the hotel’s Human Resources Manager (HRM), Scislowski told her did not understand the seriousness of the incident or realise he could lose his job but he knew management did not trust him anymore.
Hotel management told him he took advantage of the fact he had a master key to taking the coffee.
Management told Scislowski that taking the coffee and lying about it constituted gross misconduct. By letter of 4th of March 2014, management advised Scislowski that he was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.
Management told the hearing that trust had been lost and the incident warranted dismissal.
She said as Scislowski was guilty of gross misconduct other alternative sanctions were not considered.
Scislowski appealed on the grounds that his wrongdoing did not warrant dismissal but his appeal failed internally.
The General Manager upheld the dismissal on the grounds that the Strand Hotel “has zero tolerance of theft and that the value of the item taken is not a factor”.
The GM also rejected the appeal on the ground that in fabricating a story in the initial stages of the investigation was dishonest and compounded the wrong done by Scislowski.
Scislowski told the tribunal that he was not aware how serious his act was.
He never thought he would be dismissed and felt that because of his unblemished record, he would only receive a warning.
Under cross-examination he agreed that he had had a position of responsibility and was aware of company policies and procedures. He denied that he intended to take the coffee home; it was to use at work.
In its determination finding that the unfair dismissal was fair, the EAT stated that having considered the evidence the Tribunal is satisfied that it was reasonable for management to believe that Scislowski took the coffee for use at home.
The EAT found that Scislowski’s action breached the trust reposed in him by the hotel and particularly so in light of his responsibility for the security of company stock.
The EAT stated that Scislowski’s failure, during the initial stages of the investigation, to admit to the fact that the coffee was company property compounded his wrongdoing.
The EAT stated: “Finally, on the substantive issue the Employee Handbook provides that theft is an act of gross misconduct and the prescribed sanction is summary dismissal.”