A Co Cavan farmer who was sacked by Pat the Baker after being accused of stealing waste flour has been awarded €13,400 for unfair dismissal.
Padraig Cunningham had always denied theft, maintaining he was doing his employer, Pat the Baker Unlimited, a "favour" by taking away material from its site in Granard, Co Longford.
He told the Workplace Relations Commission that it would be dangerous to livestock if it ended up in animal feed and he instead composted it on his own land.
Pat the Baker's position was that the waste material, which consisted of flour captured during sieving, waste dough, unsaleable bread and unusable ingredients, could be sold to a food disposal firm at €68 a tonne to make feed - and that Mr Cunningham knew he wasn't supposed to take it.
Mr Cunningham's complaint of unfair dismissal was upheld in a decision published today - in which the adjudicating officer found the removal of waste flour was "well known within the organisation" and that the bakery had acted unreasonably in sacking an employee of 24 years' service.
The bakery's general manager Anthony Maguire said he started watching CCTV tapes after bottles of hand sanitiser went missing in April 2020 - and noticed footage of Mr Cunningham taking away a full waste bin on the front loader of a tractor.
Mr Maguire said the footage showed the complainant coming in late at night or early in the morning - and that he had never given permission for the practice, nor had anyone else in authority in the company.
Mr Cunningham was dismissed for gross misconduct on 17 May 2020, the WRC was told.
His barrister, Conor Quinn BL, asked him to comment on stills from the CCTV footage, including one where he could be seen moving pallets of expired soda bread mix.
"He [a manager] brought it out to me and said get rid of that," Mr Cunningham said. "That's for you, get rid of that."
He said he gained no advantage from removing the material from the yard and considered himself to be "doing a favour moving it, getting rid of it".
According to adjudicating officer Marguerite Buckley, The taking of the waste flour was "well known within the organisation" and Mr Cunningham - a long-serving employee who had worked at the firm for 24 years -- had made an "immediate admission and explanation" for his actions, she wrote.
Ms Buckley ordered Pat the Baker to pay Mr Cunningham €13,400 for the 21 weeks' financial loss he suffered before finding work again.