An airline security firm has been ordered to pay €29,000 to a man who it unfairly dismissed for taking a discarded copy of Time magazine from a rubbish bag at Shannon airport.
Tim Marks (55) was sacked by ICTS Ireland in October 2014 for gross misconduct after he admitted taking the magazine, which cost US$5.99 (€5), after it was removed from a United Airlines plane.
Mr Marks sued for unfair dismissal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal found the sanction was "was disproportionate" when the "value and significance" of the item and "the length of service and good employment record of Mr Marks" were considered.
The tribunal also said ICTS Ireland had failed to convince it that dismissing Mr Marks, an employee of nine years, was the only appropriate sanction in the circumstances.
The tribunal said the company’s evidence did not refute Mr Marks’s evidence that the magazine had been “removed from the aircraft by cleaners” for disposal. It found the procedures put in place by the firm to discipline Mr Marks were “fundamentally flawed”. However, the tribunal said Mr Marks had contributed to the situation by taking the magazine.
Mr Marks accepted he was wrong to do so but felt the company had overreacted. He said he did not ask permission as he felt the magazine was being treated as rubbish and had no value to the company.
Audrey Wilhite, ICTS station manager at Shannon, said the value of the item was irrelevant as there is zero tolerance in the company towards alleged theft.
She said Mr Marks would have been aware of a memo confirming a previous incident where an employee was sacked for taking a can of Coke from an aircraft without permission.
“We are a security company and the whole basis of what we do is protecting all of the items on the aircraft,” she said, adding that the removal of the magazine was the only reason for firing Mr Marks.
Speaking after the tribunal’s ruling, Mr Marks said “I feel fully vindicated”.