KLM Catering allowed to fire employee for stealing a bottle of water, court rules
KLM Catering Services was within its rights to dismiss an employee for theft when he was caught taking a bottle of water from one of the Dutch airline's planes, according to an appellate court ruling issued on June 1 and published on Friday. The 54-year-old man was dismissed by KLM Catering Services in 2019 after 25 years of working there.
The man was dismissed without notice in the fall of 2019, when a supervisor saw him pour the content of a bottle of spring water from one of the planes into his Dopper bottle. The man took the matter to court, claiming unfair dismissal and over 480 thousand euros in compensation. The Haarlem subdistrict court ruled against the man last year. He now also lost the appeal.
The man argued that the sentence was too severe given his 25 years of employment and his status as breadwinner for his family. Due to the instant dismissal, he also lost his right to unemployment benefits. He said that he did not realize he could lose his job over a bottle of water, and that the bottle would have been thrown away anyway because it had not been consumed during the flight.
KLM Catering Services, which provides meals for KLM flights, argued that the man should have known it had a zero tolerance policy on stealing food or drinks intended for passengers. The company issued the Dopper reusable bottles to its staff in 2019, and informed them that the bottles were only allowed to be refilled with tap water. Employees were told they were not allowed to take beverages used to stock aircraft.
The court said that by pouring the contents of a stocked item into his own Dopper, it suggested that the employee knew what he was doing was not permitted. "If he (really) did not know that he was not allowed to take that bottle, or at least to not drink its contents, there was no need at all for this re-pouring, a laborious act," the court wrote in its ruling.
It also noted that both former colleague knew the company had a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to "wrongful appropriation" of company supplies.
The Court of Appeals in Amsterdam ruled in favor of KLM Catering Services, affirming the previous ruling by the Haarlem court. KLM does not have to compensate the man.