The 22-year-old woman has been working as a sales employee at the small Noord-Holland drugstore and perfumery chain Visser since 2018. She ran into trouble last May after her employer saw on camera images that she had put items in her bag.
According to the retailer, these included not only low-value items such as scent testers, samples and a 5 cent plastic bag, but also a 5 euro note and some coins and items for sale, such as a mascara from Clinique.
After having her questioned by a detective agency, the company fired the woman on the spot and reported the theft to the police.
The employee denied having stolen anything and went to court. According to the woman, she had only taken a few items with a marginal value and with the permission of her branch manager.
For example, she admitted to having taken some products from a basket, which was called ‘Annie’ by the store staff. In that basket, the branch manager put old testers and samples that were distributed among the employees at the end of the month.
She also admitted to having used a 5 cent plastic bag to prevent her bag from getting dirty from a leaking bottle of juice. Due to unfair dismissal, the woman claimed damages and arrears of compensation totaling about 15,000 euros.
In court, the employer pulled out all the stops with hefty counterclaims. For example, the store chain demanded that the store employee pay almost 15,000 euros in research costs from a detective agency. It also claimed compensation in the amount of salary during the notice period (2100 euros) and reimbursement of training costs (650 euros).
A decision made public yesterday shows that the subdistrict court in Haarlem largely agrees with the employee.
According to the judge, theft of sales items and money was not proven by the camera images, but only the taking of the items with a low value. In addition, the branch manager at the police stated that the woman did indeed have permission to do so.
“The employee should have understood that she could not just take plastic bags with her, or take samples from ‘Annie’ on her own initiative, but this is not serious enough to justify a summary dismissal,” according to the ruling.
Employer has to pay
That is why the drugstore has to pay the woman more than 7,000 euros in transition compensation and arrears. The employer’s claims for damages were brushed aside by the subdistrict court.
In principle, the employee is also entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal. However, the subdistrict court set this at 0 euros because it had become apparent that the woman ‘did not take it very seriously with the applicable rules regarding the payment of plastic bags and taking testers from Annie’.
The judge also took into account that the woman now has unemployment benefits and a good position on the labor market.
The store employee’s lawyer says he is happy with the ruling. “Hardly anything was left of the whole case for the judge. It also turned out that my client had not even been able to see the camera images before she was questioned.” The perfumery chain is unable to respond this afternoon.