Steward loses unfair dismissal case against British Airways

Disappointed: former British Airways steward Jean-Paul Van der Velde

Disappointed: former British Airways steward Jean-Paul Van der Velde

A Jewish air steward sacked by British Airways for an alleged assault on a colleague has lost an unfair dismissal claim against the airline.

Jean-Paul Van der Velde told an employment tribunal that he had been the victim of antisemitic abuse, following a row in a New York bar as a BA flight crew discussed Nazis and the Holocaust.

He had worked for the airline for 17 years but was dismissed five months after the March 2010 incident when a BA investigation concluded that he had headbutted colleague Paul Meek.

Mr Van der Velde argued that he was unfairly dismissed, but in a judgment released this week, Watford Employment Tribunal found there were no witnesses to the argument between the men in the bar.

Judge Alastair Smail concluded that there was “no other likely explanation” beyond the evidence showing that Mr Van der Velde had attacked Mr Meek while drunk.

But he added that a BA employee who initially investigated the complaint of antisemitism had concluded the case “quickly” and paid little attention to whether Mr Van der Velde had been provoked.

Northern Ireland-based Mr Van der Velde, whose father survived two concentration camps, said he was “very disappointed” by the judgment. He has not yet decided whether to appeal.

Last updated: 7:45am, October 12 2012