Employee fired for taking tube of glue from workplace, awarded €90,000 for unfair dismissal

A former security guard who was fired for taking a tube of glue from his workplace has been awarded €90,000 in compensation

Publius Davison told the Industrial Tribunal in 2008 that he had taken a broken plug from home to work with the idea of gluing it back together in his free time
Publius Davison told the Industrial Tribunal in 2008 that he had taken a broken plug from home to work with the idea of gluing it back together in his free time

A former security guard who was fired for taking a tube of glue from his workplace has been awarded €90,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal after a ten year battle.

Publius Davison had been a security guard at De la Rue for many years. He told the Industrial Tribunal in 2008 that he had taken a broken plug from home to work with the idea of gluing it back together in his free time. He had taken a tube of glue from his workplace and placed it in his shirt’s breast pocket with the intention of using it in the repair.

As he was walking around the factory, a company official had approached him and accused him of stealing the tube of glue. He was fired as a result.

He contested the termination of his employment, but in 2012, the Industrial Tribunal had upheld the dismissal, saying it was justified. Davison had filed an appeal, arguing that the termination was disproportionate to the action imputed to him.

He had appealed and on 27 April 2016, the Court of Appeal had overturned the judgment, saying that while it in no way approved of the appellant’s actions, his dismissal had been a disproportionately severe measure. That court had ordered the acts of the case be sent back to the tribunal to be given a remedy at law. On December 15 2016 the tribunal had ordered De la Rue to compensate Davison with a payment of €18000.

Davison had appealed again, arguing that the Tribunal had come up with a random figure without giving any justification and that the law was intended to take into account real damages and losses when establishing the amount of compensation and didn’t say that the he compensation should ‘consist of the equivalent to real damages’ as had been argued.

The Court of Appeal, in April this year, upheld the appeal. The court said it saw no reason why unfair dismissal cases should be treated any different from other cases for damages and that there was nothing holding the tribunal back from asking for more proof of damages. The court said that the loss of salary whilst between jobs, the difference in his current salary and loss of retirement benefits, “real damages” in legal parlance, must all be taken into account.  

When the case was sent back to the Industrial Tribunal for the liquidation of damages, Davison’s lawyer Robert Abela argued that this was the first time that a court had ruled that damages given by the industrial tribunal are real damages and not equivalent damages and that this fact had been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona for the defendant company said that the worker had a lot of blame for his dismissal, pointing out that the company operated a zero tolerance policy to theft. The law regulated compensation, said the lawyer. Had the legislator wanted to give an unequivocal direction to the Tribunal with regards to damages, it would have made it an arithmetical exercise as requested by the appellant.

Noting that Davison was right to expect just compensation in the same manner as everyone else, the Tribunal, having been requested by the Court of Appeal to liquidate the real damages suffered by the appellant, awarded him €90,374.

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