Thursday 27 June 2019

Man awarded €29k after he was sacked for taking magazine from aircraft rubbish bag

Worker was unfairly dismissed after taking a $5.99 (€5) copy of TIME magazine from a rubbish bag on an aircraft at Shannon airport (Photo: Time)
Worker was unfairly dismissed after taking a $5.99 (€5) copy of TIME magazine from a rubbish bag on an aircraft at Shannon airport (Photo: Time)

Gordon Deegan

An airline security firm here has been ordered to pay €29,000 to a security worker after it was found to have unfairly dismissed him over taking a $5.99 (€5) copy of TIME magazine from a rubbish bag on an aircraft at Shannon airport.

Ennis resident, Tim Marks (55) was sacked by ICTS Ireland in October 2014 for gross misconduct after he admitted taking the discarded copy of TIME from a rubbish bag on the stairwell of the United Airlines aircraft.

Mr Marks sued for unfair dismissal and now two years after the three day hearing into the case ended, the EAT has found that the sanction to dismiss Mr Marks "was disproportionate in the circumstances".

The three member EAT found that the sacking was disproportionate "having regard to the value and significance of the property item in dispute, and the length of service and good employment record of Mr Marks".

The EAT also stated that ICTS Ireland failed to convince the tribunal that the ultimate sanction of dismissal was the only one appropriate in the circumstances.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Marks said that he was "very pleased with the outcome - even if it did take two years. I feel fully vindicated".

Mr Marks - who is currently is in full employment in Limerick - said: "This was never about the money. I was accused of stealing and my main aim was to clear my name and get my character back intact and this decision has done that."

The tribunal found that the ICTS evidence at the hearing did not refute Mr Marks’s evidence "that the magazine, alleged to have been stolen, had already been removed from the aircraft by cleaners and placed in a refuse sack outside the aircraft for disposal."

The tribunal also found that the procedures put in place by ICTS to discipline Mr Marks were "fundamentally flawed".

However, the EAT found that Mr Marks, who admitted having removed the property item in dispute and approaching a customer of ICTS after suspension, contributed to his situation, and this is reflected in the tribunal's findings and award.

At the hearing, Mr Marks accepted it was wrong on his part to take the magazine but felt that the company had overreacted.

Employed by ICTS for nine years, Mr Marks also said the reason he didn't ask for permission to take the magazine was because he felt it was being treated as rubbish and that the magazine had no intrinsic value to the company.

Mr Marks told the EAT hearing that taking the magazine was a "momentary lapse of concentration”.

He said: "In hindsight, it was a mistake and one could consider it to be not professional, but it wasn’t a deliberate act."

Station Manager at Shannon for ICTS, Audrey Wilhite told the hearing that the value of the item was irrelevant and that there is zero tolerance in the company towards alleged theft.

She said that the removal of the magazine was the only reason she fired Mr Marks. She said: "It was a big negative."

She explained: "We are a security company and the whole basis of what we do is protecting all of the items on the aircraft.

"That is our purpose for being there - if we have someone who breaches that, it is serious, it is extremely serious and we can’t actually proceed with that person."

Ms Wilhite said that Mr Marks would have been aware of a company memo confirming a previous incident where a staff member was sacked for taking a can of Coke from an aircraft without permission.

Solicitor for Mr Marks, Conor Glendon said on Wednesday that that the decision “"ully vindicates Mr Marks’s professional and personal reputation and integrity”".

He said: "The monetary award is significant and reflects the unfairness of his dismissal."

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