Ex-security guard claims Tesco fired him for being HIV-positive
Published 03/09/2011 | 05:00
A FORMER security guard at a Tesco store has claimed there was a link between his HIV status and being fired by the supermarket chain.
The man took a case for unfair dismissal after he was let go from a Tesco store in Dublin in 2009.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal was yesterday informed by Tesco that the young man's dismissal was due to his consuming a bottle of Ribena and a packet of Snax crisps during the night shift and failing to pay for them.
The worker's barrister Grainne Fahey queried if the young man felt there was a relationship between his being HIV-positive and getting fired.
"To be honest, yes," he replied, stating that the Tesco employee relations officer working with his case was aware of his medical status.
David Farrell, an Irish Business and Employers' Confederation representative for Tesco Ireland Holdings, pointed out that store manager Paul Gibney and personnel manager Andrea Davis said they were not aware of the employee's medical status.
Ms Davis said she only learnt of his condition after a Mandate shop steward informed her when she reviewed his appeal against dismissal following a number of meetings.
Ms Fahey said her client felt he was being treated differently to other employees and was punished disproportionately due to his medical condition.
During her cross-examination, Ms Davis replied that "hand on heart" the young man's HIV status had "no relevance" to his dismissal and it was due to his removing something from the shop floor and consuming it without payment.
"It does not matter if it is a TV or a bar of chocolate, it is gross misconduct." She said each case was assessed individually but there was "zero tolerance" in most instances in Tesco.
The worker's representative said there was no suggestion in the man's personnel file that he had received a copy of the 'honesty policy'.
The tribunal chair Moya Quinlan was also informed that three copies of statements were missing from the file as they were lost when Tesco moved the administrative side of its business to India.
The worker, who has since had a nervous breakdown, insists the non-payment of goods was an honest mistake, saying he had left his wallet in the security office when he went to pay for the goods.
The empty packets were then set to one side and he told the cashier he would return to pay for them. However, he said he got distracted by the job and forgot.
Store manager Mr Gibney said the man was then called to a meeting a few days later. The worker immediately admitted not paying for the goods but stated it was an honest mistake.
The chairwoman reserved her decision.