The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a Dublin airport based services firm was correct when sacking an aircraft cleaner who pocketed a passenger's €600 mobile phone found left behind on an aircraft.
The worker was suing for unfair dismissal at the WRC and he claimed that he “inadvertently brought the phone home” at the end of his shift after placing it in his pocket earlier that day when finding it on the aircraft on June 6th, 2017.
However, the phone’s tracking technology resulted in representatives of the phone owner turning up at the front door of his home the next day seeking the return of the phone.
The worker handed over the phone and apologised.
Following the man’s return from holidays he was placed on paid suspension by his employer as the company investigated the circumstances around the taking of the phone.
The company staged a disciplinary hearing on August 3rd and following this hearing, he was dismissed on August 9th and the dismissal was upheld on appeal on August 24th.
The worker was represented by Siptu in the case and he claimed that the dismissal “was completely unwarranted and grossly disproportionate” while the lengthy suspension prior to the dismissal “was punitive and equally disproportionate”.
However, in his ruling, WRC Adjudication Officer, Michael McEntee said that he came to the view that the decision to dismiss, while harsh for the worker, came within the band of reasonableness.
Trust and honesty
Mr McEntee said: “Trust and honesty is an absolute prerequisite in this type of aircraft access/cleaning situation -the actions of the complainant had seriously undermined this principle and a reasonable employer would have supported the dismissal decision.”
Mr McEntee described the phone as “a very expensive upmarket mobile phone”. He said that an example of a similar style phone was displayed to the hearing.
Mr McEntee commented: “It was not so small as to miss it in your pocket.”
The worker had worked for his employer without blemish or incident for seven years prior to the incident.
In his ruling, Mr McEntee found that the cleaner “had considerable experience in his role and was completely familiar with all procedures involved in his position especially the safe handing in to his superiors of lost passenger property.”
Mr McEntee said: “It was acknowledged at the oral hearing that from time to time mobile phones are found on aircraft and are handed, in keeping with procedures, to the supervisor during or after the shift. They are never taken home.”
Mr McEntee said that the cleaner was employed ‘Airside’ at the airport and had access to aircraft.
He said: “A particularly high standard of honesty and integrity is required in these types of positions.”
Mr McEntee said that the employer maintained that the bond of trust had been broken and that a key issue was the complete departure from well-established and well-known procedures by the worker.
A company representative told the hearing that the company’s strongly held position was that once a query or sustained question has been placed over the honesty of an employee in this type of aircraft situation dismissal is effectively the only option.