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Violating your employer’s coupon policy is a sure way for a retail worker to end up without a job. That’s what happened to an employee of a Walgreens-owned drug store, which might have been the end of the story – at least until she got awarded more than $5,600 for her troubles.

That was the recent resolution to a labor dispute in Ireland, between a former beauty advisor and her former employer Boots, the Walgreens-owned pharmacy chain with locations in Europe and Asia.

Coupon misuse is not nearly as prevalent overseas as it is in the United States, since coupons themselves are not nearly as prevalent as they are here. But Boots does offer what it calls “voupons” – a mashup of “vouchers” and “coupons” – to shoppers who meet certain spending thresholds. The problem here was that Boots said the employee was withholding these coupons from customers who had earned them, and keeping them for herself so she could buy products at a discount.

Store managers said they became aware of the situation when reviewing security camera footage “for an unrelated reason.” They said they spotted the employee “receiving voupons without the requisite spend having been made, giving voupons to people who had not reached the threshold, not giving them to people who had reached the threshold,” and stashing clearance merchandise behind the checkout desk so she could purchase them for herself later.

In total, the employee “had illegitimately redeemed nine coupons that she had not earned… was shopping during working hours and using her discount on clearance items – all transactions that were in breach of company policy.”

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It seemed like a pretty cut-and-dry case. When management confronted the employee, she offered a number of excuses. “This was common practice among employees,” she claimed. She also said she “did not understand the rules” she was asked to read when she was hired because she had dyslexia, and had simply “made an honest mistake.”

The store didn’t buy it, and fired her. This was back in October 2018. But she appealed her case to Ireland’s Labour Court, which handles industrial relations disputes and employment rights cases. And the court has now come back with its decision – Boots owes her €5,000, the equivalent of about $5,681.

The court also didn’t buy the excuse that she was unfamiliar with company policy, since she had “worked for (Boots) in an area which dealt with voupons every time there was a promotion for four years.” But one specific allegation – that she had asked colleagues to provide her with extra voupons – was cited as a reason for her dismissal, yet she was never presented with that accusation and therefore never had a chance to explain or defend herself.

That accusation alone would likely not have made the difference between her being fired and keeping her job. Nevertheless, the court found, she should have been notified of that accusation, and she wasn’t. So while “the Court finds that the Complainant was substantially responsible for her own dismissal,” the court made a final “decision to award compensation of €5,000.”

It is, perhaps, somewhat ironic that a retailer trying to ensure that employees follow its rules to the letter, ended up penalized for not following employment rules to the letter. But rules are rules – as both sides in this coupon dispute now know without a doubt.

Image source: Walgreens Boots Alliance

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