A flight attendant who was dismissed for eating two sandwiches she was given by her manager has settled her case out of court, after a judge questioned the fairness of her employer’s procedures for handling the incident.
Shannon Gleeson, who worked for budget airline EasyJet, ate the snacks after being unable to find suitable food before boarding the plane because of a nut allergy. She was fired for gross misconduct and theft for breaching the company’s policy by not asking for a receipt or clarifying that the food had already been paid for.
The company launched an investigation after one of Gleeson’s colleagues aboard the flight, from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, reported that she had seen Gleeson and her cabin manager eating a bacon baguette and croque monsieur from the in-flight range. Gleeson, who had been employed by the company for three years, was later called to a meeting to discuss the incident.
She apologised for her behaviour and offered to pay the £4.50 cost, but was sacked along with the cabin manager.
An employment tribunal at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court last week heard that Gleeson may have been wrongfully dismissed, on what was her first time working on board a flight, because EasyJet's policy placed no obligation on a consumer to see a receipt if food was given to them.
The hearing was told that the airline had no way of recording missing stock from a flight and that there was no ‘black and white policy’ in place regarding staff being given food.
Ross Fraser, the manager who dismissed Gleeson, told the tribunal: “It doesn’t say it in black and white, but the expectation is there. There is regular communication to all of the cabin crew.”
When the case began, Judge Michael Ord said: “Ms Gleeson ate a bacon baguette and she had not paid for it. That is the extent of the mistake.
“If I rang my insurance company and told them my Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow had been stolen they would want to see proof that I owned it. You have actually got to show some loss for there to be a theft. I see no evidence that anything was paid for or not paid for.”
The judge asked Fraser whether, if they worked together and he purchased a cup of tea for colleagues, he would ask for a receipt. Fraser said he “would have refused [the tea]”.
Paul Hinton, the EasyJet manager who heard Gleeson’s unsuccessful appeal against her dismissal, told the tribunal her offer to pay for the sandwiches following the incident was “very much a case of closing the barn door after the horse had bolted.
“There was, in my opinion, no way that she didn’t know that the item was being consumed without the proper authorisation. Just because the paperwork didn’t show it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been stolen. It didn’t need to be checked in my opinion. The fact that two revenue items had been heated and consumed was enough.”
But the judge said Gleeson “wasn’t responsible for ensuring it was paid for”, and described her conduct as “open and honest”, adding: “She apologised straightaway and she has got three years’ unblemished, praiseworthy in fact, service. What further mediation factors would you have needed to come into play that would avoid dismissal?”
It has since been reported that the company has settled the case for an undisclosed sum. A spokesperson for the airline said: “EasyJet has settled this matter with Ms Gleeson and so cannot comment in any further detail other than to say that we have clear and well-understood policies and the honesty of our employees is really important.”
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