Dismissed for taking a muesli bar from a kid

Mr E was employed at a supermarket as a ‘loss prevention officer’ from November 2012. My interpretation of this job is like a security officer for food. Personally I’m not sure I could sit and watch people buy food all day, I’d get jealous. One of the required tasks of Mr E’s role was to monitor the cameras that overlook the self-checkout area to ensure customers were actually paying for the products.

The employee noticed a child in the self-checkout area eating a muesli bar, which he thought had come from the store. He called the supervisor in charge of the checkout on the floor to inform her of what he had seen. Mr E maintained that to do this was common practice and consistent with the training he had received. Seems like the logical thing to do, right? However upon being approached by the supervisor, the customer said she felt as though she was being accused of theft and made a complaint. As it turns out she had scanned the barcode for a box of muesli bars, and simply given the kid one.

Disciplinary meeting

The security manager contacted Mr E about the incident, informing him that the store’s owner was “very very wild” and wanted to discuss the complaint. The owner advised Mr E that he was extremely upset, and consequently the employee was given a letter requiring his attendance at a disciplinary meeting. The notice stated that Mr E’s actions may have been a breach of security policy. Mr E requested a copy of his employment agreement, but was not given it.

A disciplinary meeting occurred on 29 March 2016. Again Mr E requested to see his employment agreement, but was told “oh, you won’t need it”. He had been advised the meeting was between himself, the store owner and security officer. However when Mr E turned up there was in fact another manager present as well as a legal advocate.

Employee’s refusal to admit responsibility

The employer claimed that Mr E was in breach of company policy because they were expected to watch people 100% of the time, and he had not actually seen the woman in question pick up the box of muesli bars from the shelf. Additionally, Mr E felt like the employer was trying to get him to admit that he was responsible for the complaint being made. Mr E refused to accept that he had not done his job properly. At this point the store owner became frustrated and decided they would have a break.

When the meeting recommenced, Mr E was told his employment was terminated with immediate effect. He was escorted from the premises and the dismissal was confirmed in writing the following day. The letter stated the company had lost trust and confidence in Mr E as a security officer and the complaint caused severe embarrassment to the employer. When the matter went before the Authority the employer maintained the dismissal was justified.

Employer’s failures

The employer conceded that the training process completed by Mr E was somewhat ad-hoc, and there was no formal set of procedures that the loss prevention officers had to follow. The Authority decided the dismissal was unjustified. It was held that a fair and reasonable employer would not have concluded there was enough substance to the complaint to warrant a dismissal, and Mr E was never given the opportunity to comment on the accusations. But what really topped it off was the owner’s admission that if Mr E had conceded his actions were wrong he would not have been dismissed.

Mr E’s position had been re-advertised the same day, and he sought medical assistance for stress, heightened anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation. The Authority awarded Mr E three months lost wages, as well as $12,000 in compensation. Significant errors leading to a fairly hefty bill for the employer.