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Sacked Airport Guard Wins Job Back After Security Breach

Sacked airport guard wins job back after security breach

An airport security guard has won her job back after she was sacked for a paperwork error and leaving her post.

Fair Work Claims represented the worker in the Fair Work Commission, successfully arguing that her dismissal was harsh.

Fair Work Claims believes the employer should have issued a warning instead.

The incident

Vanessa O’Brian worked for MSS Security since 2013, providing security at the Q Catering building at Brisbane Airport.

On 27 March 2015, O’Brian mistakenly ticked a box on a checklist confirming that a contractor’s security pass was valid when it had expired.

Additionally, management observed her on CCTV temporarily leaving her post.

Following an investigation, MSS Security sacked O’Brian for serious misconduct.

Error unintentional

In the Fair Work Commission, O’Brian admitted making the paperwork error.

However, she called the mistake unintentional, therefore making her dismissal harsh and disproportionate.

Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims told the Commission the employer did not take O’Brian’s health into consideration.

He said his client had been unwell on the day in question, and had taken cold and flu medication.

He submitted that MMS should have issued a warning instead of dismissing O’Brian, and further, that she should be reinstated.

Employer maintained it had a valid reason for dismissal

MSS maintained it had a valid reason for dismissing O’Brian.

It argued it had properly trained her and had a zero tolerance policy towards security breaches.

Critically, MSS introduced the zero tolerance policy for negligence without communicating it to staff.

Additionally, MMS argued that it provided O’Brian with procedural fairness and natural justice during the dismissal process.

The Q Catering building at Brisbane Airport.

What the Commission found

Commissioner Susan Booth accepted O’Brian had breached safety requirements in a sensitive part of an airport.

She also accepted MSS had trained her properly.

However, she also found the dismissal a disproportionate punishment.

“The seriousness of the consequences and the nature of the omission render the decision to terminate disproportionate to the conduct and therefore there was not a valid reason to terminate the Applicant’s employment.”

Ms Booth also found MSS failed to adequately inform staff about its new “zero tolerance” policy.

“I conclude that the change by MSS to the zero tolerance policy for an act of negligence was not communicated clearly and unequivocally. 

“As a result the dismissal was harsh and unreasonable.”

Ms Booth ordered MSS to immediately reinstate O’Brian.


Vanessa O’Brian’s story in ‘The Sunday Mail’.


Worker looking forward to getting back to work

Mr Heffernan says his client is thrilled and looking forward to getting back to work.

“When MSS Security’s Human Resources grabbed this matter, they went completely over the top,” he said.

“For example, accusing Ms O’Brian of fraud and falsifying company documents.

“This set off a path of a poor investigative process that would be an embarrassment to any HR professional.”


Please call our specialist team at Fair Work Claims on

1300 324 748

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