Airport lounge worker (40) claims she was 'humiliated' into cleaning toilets after employer found vodka in her handbag
A Latvian woman who worked for more than a decade at Aer Lingus’ VIP lounge at Dublin Airport claimed she was “humiliated” into cleaning toilets in the food court after her employer discovered a bottle of vodka in her handbag during a routine search.
Claiming her employer made her out to be “a drunk and a thief” Kristina Malinovska, (40), from Dublin is suing her former employer, One Complete Solution Ltd., trading as Outsourced Client Solutions (OCS), for constructive dismissal.
During a hearing at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) this morning, Ms Malinovska, (40), from Dublin, broke down in tears as she described how she worked without incident as a lounge assistant and waitress at Aer Lingus’ Gold Circle lounge at the Dublin Airport for 15 years.
The lounge, which provides elite Gold Circle Club members with a free bar and snacks while awaiting their flights, is run by OCS which is also contracted by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to manage the DAA’s business lounges as well provide cleaning and pest control services.
Ms Malinovska told the tribunal that she had an unblemished work record and reported for her 1pm to 9:30pm shift for work as usual on January 27, 2015 when a duty manager asked for permission to check her handbag as part of a routine search of staff belongings.
The manager found a 250ml plastic bottle – just slightly larger than a ‘naggin’ - containing a clear liquid which turned out to be vodka.
Ms Malinovska said she was told to leave the premises immediately and was summoned to an investigation into the matter the following day in which she denied taking the vodka from the bar or consuming it at work.
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” she told the tribunal.
She explained that she bought the vodka to drink with a friend after work because she wouldn’t be able to make it to an off-license before it closed when her shift ended. She said she transferred the vodka into a plastic bottle due to security checks at the airport.
She received a letter from OSC on February 19, 2015 stating that the subsequent investigation into the matter found nothing untoward and there was no sanction forthcoming against her, other than a request not to bring “large quantities of alcohol to work”, the tribunal heard.
However, she was subsequently told she would not be working in the lounge again and her new job would be cleaning out toilets and the general food court area in the airport despite claiming that she was “promised I would never be moved.”
Ms Malinovska subsequently quit her job, which pays around €20,000 a year, because she felt humiliated by what she believed was a demotion. However she also made four written requests to Aer Lingus – which contracted OSC – to reinstate her, the tribunal heard.
“Do you not accept that these circumstances were extraordinarily humiliating where’s she’s being held as a drunk and a thief?” Ms Malinovska’s solicitor asked Michael Leavy, OSC’s former operations manager.
Mr Leavy, denied Ms Malinovska was suspected of drinking on the job or stealing liquor and gave the reason for her sudden change in job functions as “a demand by operations to cover that position right away.”
“Are you saying it was just a coincidence she was asked to move after 15 years in the same job?” asked tribunal member Frank Keoghan.
“Why do you pick her?”
Mr Leavy responded that “we needed people to cover the position” right away and she was available.
Earlier, IBEC representative Tiernan Doherty, representing OCS, told the tribunal that Ms Malinovska’s official job description was that of a cleaner and not a waitress, noting the Gold Circle lounge is a self-service operation.
He also told the tribunal that she agreed to the company’s terms and conditions of employment which includes a clause that employee’s job functions and locations can change.
Ms Malinovska is seeking reinstatement in her former job in the lounge as well as compensation for lost wages.
The tribunal adjourned to consider its decision.