Supermarket chain Tesco have been ordered to pay a former security guard almost $50,000 in compensation after a court ruled that his sacking was linked to his HIV positive status.
Dublin’s Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed a claim from the company that the young man was fired because he hadn’t paid for a soft drink and a packet of chips consumed during a night shift.
The man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, told the court that he believed there was a direct link between his HIV and the sacking in 2009.
The Irish Independent reports that 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.
Barrister Fahey also told the hearing that the man, who later had a nervous breakdown, felt he was being treated differently to other employees and punished disproportionately.
The tribunal inquiry awarded the man almost $50,000 in compensation after finding the evidence showed there had been no breaches of discipline or complaints against the man during his employment.
The inquiry also pointed out he was not informed that an initial meeting with the store manager was in fact an inquiry.
Solicitor Niamh Walsh, who acted for the security guard, told the Irish Independent: “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.”
Tesco has decided not to appeal the decision.
During the case the security guard admitted he hadn’t paid for the two items in question but said it was an honest mistake as he didn’t have his wallet on him at the time. He said if he had been told he would have settled up straight away.
Tesco management claimed at the Tribunal that they operated a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude to any employee who didn’t pay for goods.