Four-star hotel fires supervisor over two cups of coffee

Strand Hotel in Limerick dismisses kitchen steward for stealing coffee powder

A supervisor at a four-star hotel in Limerick has lost his livelihood over two cups of coffee.

Krzysztof Scislowski was a chief kitchen steward at the Strand Hotel in the city, where his duties included the supervision of staff and of cleaning, as well as ensuring the security of hotel stock and other property. The hotel sacked him in March this year after he admitted taking two paper cups of coffee powder because he liked its taste and it wasn't available in the staff canteen.

Mr Scislowski claimed this was unfair dismissal, but the Employment Appeals Tribunal has now found that the hotel acted fairly in firing him. It said that he had compounded his wrongdoing by initially denying that the coffee belonged to the hotel.

Managers had searched his locker after a colleague noticed him wrapping the paper cups and putting them in his pocket. When they confronted Mr Scislowski he pretended to have bought the coffee at a shop and to have transferred it to the paper cups after the jar broke. But at a subsequent meeting the steward, who had worked at the hotel since 2007, admitted to having taken the coffee powder from the hotel’s dry-goods store.

“Took advantage of master key”

Mr Scislowski said he had lied because he didn’t think anybody would believe him if he explained that he only wanted the coffee for his own use at work and did not intend to take it home. He also told the hotel that he had not appreciated the seriousness of the incident or realised that he could lose his job.

The hotel’s human-resources manager told him that he had taken advantage of having a master key to steal the coffee and that the theft, and his lying about it, constituted gross misconduct.

Mr Scislowski appealed the decision to the hotel’s general manager, who upheld his dismissal as in line with company policy, including a zero-tolerance approach to theft, especially as the steward had lied about what he had done.

Mr Scislowski told the hearing that he had hoped his unblemished record would mean he would only receive a warning, but the tribunal decided that it was reasonable for the hotel to believe he was taking the coffee home and that he had breached the trust it had put him in, particularly as he had been responsible for the security of company stock.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times