The Labour Court has overturned a €7,500 award made to a former Aldi employee who argued that his PTSD medication caused him to forget to pay for store food and drinks on seven dates.
In a three member Labour Court ruling, chairman Kevin Foley has quashed the finding made by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) last year that Aldi Stores Ireland pay Cameron Scott €7,500 compensation for his unfair dismissal.
At the WRC, the commission was told that forgetfulness was a side effect of the medication to treat Mr Scott's post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The WRC heard that Mr Scott joined the British Army as a young man and was assigned to Northern Ireland where he lived through 'traumatic experiences’.
Now in the Labour Court ruling, Mr Foley has upheld Aldi’s appeal against the unfair dismissal and found that there "were substantial grounds justifying the dismissal" of Mr Scott and that his dismissal was not unfair.
Mr Foley said that the response of Aldi Stores Ireland to dismiss Mr Scott was within the range of responses which could reasonably be expected of a reasonable employer.
Aldi dismissed Mr Scott for gross misconduct after he admitted to taking food and drink and not paying for the items on seven separate dates from November 25th 2020 to January 14th 2021.
Across the seven dates, the items comprised a toasted sandwich, a flatbread sandwich, three energy drinks, three bottles of water, a bottle of orange juice and a coffee.
At a disciplinary meeting in January 2021 when Aldi pointed out to Mr Scott had taken food and soft drink products on numerous occasions and had not paid for them, "he was mortified and offered to pay for these goods".
Mr Scott explained at that meeting that it was not intentional and that he would pay for the goods.
In May 2021, Mr Scott was informed by Aldi that he was being dismissed without notice for gross misconduct involving multiple occasions of removing product without paying.
A doctor employed by Aldi's occupational health service assessed Mr Scott and provided two reports to Aldi to advise that Mr Scott’s behaviour could not be accounted for by forgetfulness associated with his medication or his condition.
The doctor’s report opened up at the WRC stated "in my opinion, to argue that this repeated behaviour is a manifestation of medication related forgetfulness, is stretching the argument, particular in the absence of any observations to suggest forgetfulness in other areas of his day-to-day life at work"
The doctor concluded: "On balance, I am not persuaded that repeated failure to pay for goods, arising as a sole observable manifestation of forgetfulness, can be attributed to his medication"
Mr Scott provided Aldi with a note from his own doctor advising of his medical condition and the note simply stated that a side effect of that medication is forgetfulness.
Mr Foley noted that the note did not state that Mr Scott himself suffered from this side effect and neither did it state that the condition from which Mr Scott suffered could, itself, could result in forgetfulness, albeit Mr Scott at one point in the disciplinary procedure asserted that such could be the case.
Mr Foley stated that the court took into account the doctors’ reports that no medical conclusion could be drawn that the PTSD medication caused forgetfulness.
Mr Foley said that the court was satisfied that the conduct of Mr Scott set against the policies of Aldi Stores Ireland could reasonably be regarded as sufficiently grave as to give rise to serious disciplinary sanction.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Aldi Stores Ireland stated: "We note and support the decision of the Labour Court hearing and will not be commenting further at this time."