Monday, February 10, 2014

Unemployment benefits denial upheld for fired Newark Airport TSA screener

On February 10, 2014, a two-judge New Jersey Appellate Division panel affirmed a state labor board's denial of unemployment benefits to a Transportation Security Administration airport screening officer who avoided being screened herself when boarding a flight.

According to the decision, on-line here, Lisa W. Weems just finished her shift a Newark's Liberty Airport on July 3, 2009 when she, still in uniform, walked "in through the exit ramp" of Terminal C "without presenting her bags to be x-rayed and without passing through the metal detector."

Her flight to New Orleans had already taken off by the time security official, who saw Weems' conduct on video, could reach the gate. "Because of the security breach, the flight was called back to the gate and all 113 passengers were ordered to disembark and were rescreened."

Weems was fired about three months after the incident and applied for unemployment benefits.  She was originally granted unemployment but that decision was reversed after the TSA appealed. 

Weems has, altogether, filed three unsuccessful appeals of her denial of unemployment benefits, arguing that "there was no . . . policy which . . . required a TSA screening checkpoint employee, to be screened or have their baggage screened, while off or on duty, when their baggage is already in a sterile area."  The Appellate Division found that "there is no proof in the record where Weems kept her baggage while she worked her shift in Terminal A, even if it was stored in a sterile area in that terminal, she removed her baggage and traveled on the public monorail before entering Terminal C."