Advert

Eavesdropping boss must pay damages for unjust dismissal

Boss spied on phone calls, e-mails and Facebook chats

Data monitoring software revealed the employee was accessing Facebook during work, but she said she had used it to communicate with clients. Photo: Shutterstock

Data monitoring software revealed the employee was accessing Facebook during work, but she said she had used it to communicate with clients. Photo: Shutterstock

A woman whose boss used to eavesdrop on her phone conversations with clients has won €10,000 in compensation after she was sacked illegally five years ago.

An industrial tribunal heard how the firm’s managing director also installed monitoring software to see if she accessed Gmail and Facebook.

He continually victimised her and expected her to obey his orders unquestioningly, because, as he said, “I’m the boss!”

The MD regularly changed the password of her work e-mail and often called clients behind her back. He would turn up at meetings with them after listening in on her conversations, the labour tribunal heard.

The MD regularly changed the password of her work e-mail and called clients behind her back

Details of this difficult working environment emerged in a case filed by Margaret Brincat, former sales manager at Effective Marketing Limited. The firm was represented by its managing director, Jason Attard.

The tribunal, chaired by Charles Cassar, ruled that the firm had failed to prove the grounds that merited the immediate sacking of Ms Brincat, who had not even been given any warnings prior to being summarily fired and told not to report for work any longer.

Ms Brincat told the tribunal that she had started working for Mr Attard in October 2011 as sales manager. She said Mr Attard would continuously interfere with her work and became increasingly suspicious of all her movements.

In her evidence to the tribunal, Ms Brincat claimed that Mr Attard often resorted to threats and intimidation, especially in the tone he used to speak to her. They had regular disagreements.

He explained that he had installed data monitoring software on the office equipment which revealed that Ms Brincat was accessing her personal Gmail and Facebook accounts through her work computer

Ms Brincat also claimed that Mr Attard had refused to sign her contract of employment and it was only after five months from her recruitment that he made her sign a contract with altered clauses, including one that allowed him to have access to her e-mail messages.

The tribunal heard how during her tenure as sales manager, Ms Brincat had on more than one occasion exceeded her sales targets and Mr Attard even praised her for her achievements.

Mr Attard told the tribunal that he had sacked Ms Brincat over breaches of her work contract and not because of any deficiencies in her job.

On the contrary, the tribunal heard Mr Attard admit that Ms Brincat was good at her job and performed excellently.

Mr Attard said Ms Brincat accessed Facebook during office hours and often chatted to her friends. Ms Brincat did not deny this, explaining that she used Facebook not only to speak to her friends but also as a means to communicate with her clients.

He explained that he had installed data monitoring software on the office equipment which revealed that Ms Brincat was accessing her personal Gmail and Facebook accounts through her work computer.

He also told the tribunal he had had an argument with Ms Brincat over commissions she was claiming were due to her. He said he was not pleased with her tone and felt she had mocked him in front of other employees.

Following this argument, Mr Attard sent her an SMS informing her that she was on forced leave and 12 days later, wrote to her telling her not to report for work any longer due to breaches in her work contract.

The tribunal ruled that the termination of employment had not been used as a last resort, as should have been the case.

It found no evidence of any contract breaches and ruled that the termination had been “unjust and abusive”.

The tribunal ordered Mr Attard to pay Ms Brincat €2,250 in backdated salary and €7,700 for the commissions due to her, which the company had never denied were owed.

Lawyer Henry Antoncich appeared for Ms Brincat, while the company was assisted by lawyer Joseph Schembri.

Advert
Advert
Advert