Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chopped: The Post-Natal Version

Sometimes you have an employee that you want to let go but it isn't in you to give someone the sack. So you hope they leave of their own accord. Maybe decide to become a stay-at-home parent.

What can you do when that person comes back to work after having a baby, despite your most fervent prayers?

The best you can do is build a case for the action you will soon take. Prepare documentary evidence and then announce, "You've been chopped!"

Sheree Young is accused of putting ketchup on a hamburger, in clear violation of the customer's order. For that, she was let go from her job at a takeaway in Letterkenny. It wasn't just that, of course. One small complaint isn't enough to warrant such an extreme reaction. The owner of the restaurant where she worked as a cook also claims that she was on the verge of poisoning half of Letterkenny. The owner, it would appear, has watched numerous episodes of Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares", where you'll hear that very expression repeatedly.

Ms. Young had just returned from maternity leave when Giles McGee began to document her ineptitude. If only she had stayed home to mind the baby, he never would have had to go to such lengths to get her out of his kitchen.

The sad affair began soon after Mr. McGee took over the restaurant. Ms. Young sauced an order that was to be served without the red stuff. The customer assured Mr. McGee that it wasn't the first time, and as the owner, Mr. McGee had to be concerned. If someone doesn't want ketchup, and they keep getting it even though they don't want it, they will simply take their business elsewhere.

So he wrote the complaint down and gave it to the cook, to put her on notice.

Ms. Young went off on maternity leave, had her baby and wanted to come back to work, a most unhappy occasion for Mr. McGee. He didn't want her back, and as far as he was concerned, he didn't have a place for her. But the law is the law, and he had to take her back. It didn't mean, however, that he had to keep her.

The log of errors began in earnest.

There was the case of the undercooked taco mince, with all its raw meatiness threatening disease to the consumer. There was the time Ms. Young heated garlic mayo in the microwave, thereby creating a delightfully warm environment for the various bacteria that are so fond of egg products. The chicken was cooked beyond recognition. All in all, she was proving herself more than incompetent. Indeed, she was a danger to the health and well-being of the greater Letterkenny area.

After two weeks of gathering evidence, Mr. McGee gave his cook the sack. He was ready for the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The case of unfair dismissal has begun, and Ms. Young's solicitor has duly noted that half of Letterkenny did not fall ill during the previous four years of Ms. Young's employment when she worked for the previous owner of Charley's Cafe. Hence, the claim of Mr. McGee is false. It could also mean that the previous owner of the cafe had lax standards which is why they got out of the restaurant business, but that may all come up later.  Or it could be that Ms. Young was angry at Mr. McGee for not wanting her back, and so she decided to get even by acting the part of incompetent cook. We may never know the truth in a case of he said, she said.

The initial phase of the hearing has concluded and the matter has been continued until later in the year. Perhaps that will give both sides time to find further evidence to prove their case, although it is clear that Mr. McGee has a leg up on that task. He has already written down all the things that his former employee did wrong, and about all she can do is say she didn't do what he says she did.

So what next? Do they have to bring in witnesses to affirm the charges and counter-charges? Or will the tribunal just fine Mr. McGee and let him go without forcing him to take back a cook he doesn't trust with the health and safety of his clients? A little something for everyone, so.

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