ERA backs Farmers sacking of retail department manager

ERA backs Farmers sacking of retail department manager

Fae Osborne

A former Farmers’ Department Store employee is devastated after being fired for abusing staff discount privileges, and still denies she was in the wrong despite an Employment Relations Authority ruling against her.

West Auckland resident Fae Osborne was sacked from her department manager role at LynnMall’s Farmers store after the company investigated claims she used her staff discount to buy items for a family member.

In a just released decision, the Employment Relations Authority ruled the department store was right in dismissing the employee, and denied Ms Osborne’s reinstatement and compensation claim of $30,000.

On February 11, 2010, Ms Osborne used her staff discount to buy four bottles of Brut body spray, a nightgown and a dressing gown, totalling $98.10.

Another department manager processed the sale and originally denied the purchase because Ms Osborne tried to use her father’s Eftpos card to pay for the goods.

Farmers’ employees can be sacked for buying goods on behalf of a friend or family, states company policy. Purchases for personal use or gifts for others are allowed.

Ms Osborne also “stashed” the heavily discounted clearance stock of Brut under a stand, in breach of company policy, said the report.

The company launched a formal investigation into the incident.

It considered the situation “sweethearting”, where employees use their staff discount card to buy goods for friends who have picked out the items.

Just over a month later, Ms Osborne was dismissed for breaching staff discount and holds’ policies, said the report.

She had been issued with a final written warning less than five months before the breach, causing her to move from the St Lukes store to the LynnMall store.

The former employee said she was devastated to learn the ERA had backed Farmers’ decision to sack her.

She said she was an honest employee, and the items were put aside on the counter to be paid for while she completed extra work after her shift had finished.

The now-unemployed Aucklander said she was considering appealing against the decision.

– NZ Herald


Retailing is not a static environment. The workflow often fluctuates between extremes of quiet and crazy. For front line staff in this industry most days there will be times when under pressure to meet the needs of customers, they will cut corners in store procedures. Often these are little things but sometimes major. In the calm environment of hindsight these actions are often frowned upon by people in more senior management or HR that don’t know what it is like to work your arse off in the trenches of front line retail and service industries.

If most retail staff were scrutinised closely many would be found guilty of a range of breaches of company policy and procedures of varying severity in any given week. In Fae Osborne’s case it appears there is more to the story. I suspect that there is ‘history’ between her and store senior management on other matters, and this was the procedural breach they could hang her on.

Yes the ERA is correct that Fae has broken company policy, but so do most other retail employees. I only hope the other issues that will have put Fae in the sights of senior management were performance based and not personality based. If the previous history is merely a clash of personalities and this was the ultimate payback then a large slice of justice may be absent from what is a technically correct decision by the ERA.

– Dave Griffith

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