The Employment Appeals Tribunal has upheld the dismissal of an employee dismissed for having tampered with stock.

The employee worked as a warehouse operative for a distribution company. In January 2012, it became apparent that a box containing jam tarts had been tampered with and two tarts were missing from a packet. CCTV images indicated a link to the employee. Following an investigation and disciplinary process, the employee was dismissed.

The employee denied that he had tampered with the packet of jam tarts and appealed his dismissal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The Tribunal found that the employee’s evidence was not credible and held that on the balance of probabilities he did tamper with the stock.

As the employer carried out a proper investigation, held disciplinary meetings and allowed the employee to appeal the decision to dismiss, the Tribunal was satisfied that the procedure followed was thorough, fair and objective. Furthermore, the employer had made its zero tolerance policy clear to its employees.

The Tribunal was also satisfied that dismissal was a proportionate sanction. The distribution company had only one client to which it dispatched deliveries of jam tarts and as such was totally reliant on it for its business. The Tribunal accepted that if the employer tolerated staff tampering with stock, the working relationship between the employer and its client could be irretrievably damaged. The Tribunal therefore concluded that the employer’s “zero tolerance” policy was reasonable in the circumstances and that any dismissal arising out of a breach of the policy was fair and proportionate.

As zero tolerance dismissals can be difficult to uphold, this decision will be welcomed by employers, particularly those in the retail industry. The decision illustrates the importance of having in place clear zero tolerance policies and of observing good procedures in relation to the investigation and disciplinary process.