Last month we reported on an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) case where a claimant failed in her claim for unfair dismissal after she was dismissed for drinking coffee in her workplace, in breach of a workplace regulation. Another very recent case demonstrates the EAT applying similar principles regarding dismissal for theft in the workplace. (Peter Byrne v Keelings Logistics Limited UD829/2013).

The claimant in the case was a warehouse operative. During a routine review of CCTV footage, the claimant was viewed acting suspiciously beside a cage. An investigation was launched into alleged tampering of stock and subsequent eating of a product. A disciplinary process was commenced on foot of which the decision was made to dismiss the claimant.

The EAT found that there were no procedural defects such as might render the dismissal unfair. It then looked at the issue of proportionality and whether the sanction imposed was proportionate. The EAT accepted the respondent's argument that its business operations are predicated on a very high level of trust existing in the business and its third party suppliers. Any breach of this trust could have a very damaging effect on the business and its working relationships. On foot of this, the EAT upheld the zero tolerance policy as reasonable.

This is another useful case for retail employers as it supports a zero tolerance policy towards theft of any kind in the business. It also serves as a reminder of the critical importance of affording fair procedures prior to any dismissal, if an employer is to succeed on the substantive ground.