A SIPTU member sacked for allegedly taking a pair of used socks from a waste area in a community centre in Limerick City has won her case for unfair dismissal and an award of €15,000 at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Geraldine O’Donnell, a 66-year-old mother of five, had been employed on a community job initiative scheme at various community centres for more than 30 years. In November 2022, she was accused of taking without authorisation a pair of children’s socks that had been part of an art project and left with a pile of boxes, thought to be for disposal. 

In evidence at her WRC case, Geraldine said that it was coming up to Christmas time and she believed the socks decorated with a red bow, valued in the case at €1.75, were to be thrown out. She decided instead to take them for her granddaughter. When it was noticed by a supervisor the socks were gone, the woman admitted she had taken them but was rushed through a flawed investigation process and ultimately, dismissed.

SIPTU Workers Rights Centre Advocate, Victoria Stephens, said: “At the WRC, we argued that the member was not a dishonest person, as alleged, as she had admitted to taking the socks when asked by her employer. We argued that a person is only guilty of stealing when ‘he or she dishonestly appropriates property without the consent of its owner and to deprive its owner of it’. This did not occur.”

She added: “The Adjudication Officer found that the most appropriate remedy was compensation and as the complainant’s employment was terminated on the 1st December 2022, and she was due to retire in January 2024, in all of the circumstances, she found that the appropriate award of compensation is €15,000.”

Geraldine O’Donnell said: “I would firstly like to say thank you to my SIPTU representative Victoria she has restored my faith in humanity in this horrific journey. It has not been an easy year and a half for myself and my family. I now wish to enjoy my retirement proud that I served my community for many years without a blemish on my good name.”

Pictured above: SIPTU member Geraldine O’Donnell.