I have an interesting situation to decide on this week.
A contract cleaning company has a staff member who services a number of apartments on a regular basis. This staff member was liked by the client manager and he gave her authority to eat from his personal cupboards. She was also asked to cook for him and according to her, was authorised to take leftovers as and when these where available.
During last week The client manager contacted the company and advised that he was cancelling all cleaning arrangements as he had found that the cleaner had taken and eaten a slab of his personal chocolate and that in his eyes she had broken the trust relationship and that as a result the companies services would no longer be required.
Questioning of the cleaner confirms that she did take and eat the remainder of a slab of chocolate. She has apologised the the client manager, but he remains unrelentant in his decision to terminate the contract with the company.
I chaired the disciplinary hearing and found the cleaner guilty of the charge. She also pleaded guilty to the charge.
My dilemma is as follows: Is the offence serious enough to warrant a dismissal? There is no evidence to confirm the limits to which she was authorised to go to. Should she have been aware that the taking of chocolates was a step too far? Should the Client company have advised her employees of their concerns prior to terminating the contract?
She has previously been corrected via disciplinary action with similar offences, but in that instance she was aware of the limitations of taking articles for lunch such as bread and jam and tea etc.
The other aspect to be considered is that her employment with the company was spread over a number of customers, but the loss of this one customer now reduces her work requirement to approximately two and half days per week.
Her employer now faces a financial expense that it should not be expected to carry in the 2+ odd days when they cannot utilise her services.
Another aspect to consider is the motive of the client manager in terminating the contract. Was the offence of the cleaner the real reason for the contract termination or a good excuse? we will never know!
Do I recommend a dismissal? If this was referred to the CCMA would a commissioner find that the dismissal was substantively fair?
Do I recommend the she be issued with a final written warning and advise as a result of her actions that the company has experienced loss of company image and financial loss, that her hours of work be reduced to compensate for the loss of business?
Your thoughts would be appreciated.