Golden Circle Law Firm entitled to

dismiss employee of 24 years over

internet browsing during working hours

An Employment Judge in Liverpool, has ruled that Weightmans handled the dismissal procedure of an employee of 24 years in a “text book fashion” and that the claim against the firm should fail.

Mrs. T. Hall was employed by Weightmans for almost 24 years and at the time of her dismissal was a Facilities Assistant. An investigation by the firm revealed that the employee had been online on her computer but not for work purposes.

The employee brought her adult daughter and two young grandchildren onto the firm’s premises during her lunchbreak and left them unaccompanied in the Client Reception Area. It was stated that a toddler was seen crawling toward the automatic sliding doors and it was concluded that on this basis the children were at risk. The employee was invited to an investigatory meeting following this incident. During that investigatory meeting the employee said that she had been working on her computer which led to the investigation as to her computer usage.

This investigation revealed that she had spent significant periods of time visiting sites which were unconnected with her work such as Ryanair, Easy Jet and Debenhams.

It was agreed following the incident and the internet usage that the firm would meet privately with the Plaintiff but the day before the incident the employee was involved in what appears to have been a heated argument with a colleague about covering an upcoming event and during this exchange it was alleged that the employee had called her colleague a “twat”. Members of the firm’s concierge team corroborated the version of events of the employee’s colleague in relation to this incident. It was confirmed that the employee had used offensive language in referring to her colleague.

The firm dismissed the employee for gross misconduct even though she had a clean disciplinary record until then.

An internal appeal came to the conclusion that the incident with her family in the Reception Area only justified a final warning but taking into account the misuse of the internet during working hours and the argument with the colleague, dismissal was justified and the employee was dismissed.

During the Hearing before the Employment Judge the employee said that she had been using the internet on behalf of a colleague and that she had not used abusive language during the altercation with her colleague and that in fact it was her colleague who had been aggressive towards her. Mrs. Hall was represented by her Husband who is an experienced Trade Union Official throughout the entire procedure.

Judge Warren came to the conclusion that the process which had been followed was “text book” and that every meeting with the employee had been minuted and that she had been made aware of the outcome at each stage and given all the necessary paperwork and an opportunity to respond and that the ultimate decision and sanction was within the range of what was reasonable and he ruled that the employee was lawfully dismissed.

If you require any further detail or advice, please contact John Reid in O’Rourke Reid
Dial: +353 1 240 1200
LinkedIn John Reid LinkedIn Profile
Blog John Reid Solicitor

This document is for information purposes only and does not purport to represent legal advice.  
© O’Rourke Reid 2020