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Man with HIV gets €32,000 from Tesco for unfair dismissal

A FORMER security guard at Tesco who said there was a link between his HIV and being fired has been awarded €32,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

The supermarket chain had claimed at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that the young man's dismissal from a Dublin store in 2009 was due to his consuming a bottle of Ribena and a packet of Snax during his night shift, and failing to pay for them.

But the tribunal inquiry awarded him €32,000 in compensation after finding the evidence showed there had been no breaches of discipline or complaints against the man during his employment.

It also pointed out he was not informed that an initial meeting with the store manager was in fact an inquiry.

His solicitor, Niamh Walsh of O'Connor & Bergin Solicitors, said: “Our client is very happy with the result and feels vindicated by the decision made by the tribunal. It was a difficult time for him.”

A spokesman for Tesco said the company was not appealing the award. During the hearing, the man's barrister, Grainne Fahey, asked the former security guard if he felt there was a link between his being HIV positive and his dismissal.

“To be honest, yes,” he said – adding that the Tesco employee relations officer working with his case was aware of his medical condition. Ms Fahey told the hearing that the man felt he was being treated differently to other employees and punished disproportionately.

However, the supermarket chain claimed his dismissal was related to his having consumed products without paying for them. The young man, who later had a nervous breakdown, said it was an honest mistake.

He said he had left his wallet in the office and meant to return later to pay, but got distracted by work and simply forgot. He said if he had been told he would have settled up straight away.

Meeting Store manager Paul Gibney said when the young man was informed at a meeting that he had not paid for the goods, he immediately said he had forgotten to go back and pay. Personnel manager Andrea Davis told the tribunal she had not been aware of his medical status at the time of his dismissal and it had “no relevance”.

She said his dismissal was linked to his having removed a product from the shop floor and consuming it without paying. The tribunal heard there was “zero tolerance” in such matters. “It does not matter if it is a TV or a bar of chocolate, it is gross misconduct,” she said.