Don’t we all wish we could work in Payroll? If you haven’t thought about it until now, consider the case of RHD, a payroll administrator for an emergency transport services company in Spain. Over a period of five years she increased her own salary from €715 per month to an astronomical €24,599 before she was caught. RHD was able to maintain the charade by misreporting her income in tax returns, but when an injury kept her away from work her replacement discovered and reported the fraud.
When this matter came before the Criminal Courts it was accepted that RHD suffered from a gambling addiction and the Supreme Court has now gone so far as to say that this condition may be a mitigating factor in certain theft crimes. The Court considered expert testimony in its decision. When properly diagnosed, as for RHD, a gambling addiction amounts to a defect in one’s own impulse control, the expert stated. The Court took the view that a gambling addiction would not affect sentencing in normal instances of robbery or other complex criminal operations, which require a criminal mind-set. However, RHD’s diagnosis was relevant as a mitigating factor (not a defence) because her criminal act consisted in effect of rigging her own personal lottery each month for 5 years.
This ruling serves to recognise the condition as a mitigating factor for sentencing in criminal matters; however, the diagnosis of a gambling addiction is not a free pass for all forms of theft. It simply means that formally-diagnosed gambling addicts who steal will not be absolved of their crime, but may receive a lighter sentence. Therefore, despite the criminal law implications of this ruling, employers may proceed with terminations of employees for such fraudulent conduct in the same manner as they now do even if the employee pleads such an addiction in his own defence. As the Spanish Labour Courts have chosen not to take into account such psychological diagnoses when reviewing termination claims, companies need not worry about an employee’s gambling addiction affecting the legality of a dismissal. The same will no doubt be true of other misconduct which may have medical origins, such as kleptomania, voyeurism, pyromania, drug addiction, etc.
In light of her diagnosis, RHD was given a reduced sentence of four and a half years in prison and she was also required to pay back the €296,220 she ultimately “earned” while working for the company.