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Flight Attendant compensated after theft

Recently a long serving employee of Qantas has won compensation for unfair dismissal after found stealing.

After 28 years of service the Qantas flight attendant was found to have contravened the companies conduct policy when he was one of three flight attendants found to have taken alcohol whilst travelling on the Perth to Sydney flight and then mislead the investigation that uncovered the breach.

Specifically, he was found to have a can and a bottle of beer in his jacket, a 50ml bottle of gin in his bag and two bottles of vodka in his trousers pockets.

At first he said they had inadvertently pocketed the alcohol whilst serving passengers and the gin might have come from a hotel mini bar, but later his story changed, admitting he had deliberately taken the beer.

Qantas dismissed him in April 2016 with 5 weeks pay in lieu of notice, after it had completed its investigation.

The Fair Work Commissioner found that Qantas action was entire understandable but because the attendant had a long unblemished record, was over 50 years of age making it hard to find another job and that the quantity taken was only a small amount, Qantas’s action was deemed harsh.

Given these factors, it “would have been appropriate for Qantas to implement a penalty lesser than dismissal”, the Deputy President said, finding the dismissal unfair.

In considering an appropriate remedy, he accepted Qantas’ argument that reinstatement was inappropriate because trust could not be repaired and that it might be seen to “condone” theft.

“The fact that the [flight attendant] changed his story is a crucial factor here,” he said, even though he was “contrite for his actions and explained his misleading explanation as arising from panic due to his fear of losing his job”.

See the full decision at https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2016fwc8249.htm

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