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 and the maintenance of cleaning equipment. He was also responsible for controlling 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, discovered in a locker and bag search, Scislowski made up a story that he had purchased the coffee at a shop the previous evening. He claimed a glass coffee jar had broken, forcing him to transfer the powder to the two paper cups.
However, Scislowski admitted to taking the coffee from the hotel’s dry store at a third investigation meeting held by the hotel.
Scislowski, who had been employed at the hotel since 2007, 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, Scislowski said he did not understand the seriousness of the incident nor realise he could lose his job, but he knew management did not trust him any more.
Hotel management told him he took advantage of the fact he had a master key and that taking the coffee then lying about it constituted gross misconduct.
By letter on 4 March 2014, management advised Scislowski that he was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. No alternative sanctions were considered.
Scislowski appealed on the grounds that his wrongdoing did not warrant dismissal, but his appeal failed at an internal hearing.
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 general manager also rejected the appeal on the grounds that fabricating a story in the initial stages of the investigation was dishonest and compounded the wrong.
However Scislowski told the tribunal that he was not aware how serious his act was. He never thought he would be dismissed, and he felt that because of his unblemished record he would only receive a warning.
Under cross-examination he agreed that he had a position of responsibility and was aware of company policies and procedures. He denied that he intended to take the coffee home.
In its determination finding that the dismissal was fair, the EAT stated that having considered the evidence, the tribunal was 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 place in him by the hotel, particularly so in light of his responsibility for the security of company stock.
It said 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.
“Finally, on the substantive issue the employee handbook provides that theft is an act of gross misconduct and the prescribed sanction is summary dismissal,” it said.