By Steve Strunsky/The Star-Ledger
Eight TSA screeners were fired today for failing to follow guidelines. Picture above is a TSA worker in a file photo.
NEWARK — Eight airport screeners in Newark were fired this morning, after being caught sleeping on the job or failing to follow other guidelines for screening checked bags, the Transportation Security Administration said.
The TSA said the firings stem from an ongoing investigation led by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, which began looking into security operations at Newark Liberty International Airport following a string of security breaches early last year. Newark’s federal security director at the time of the breeches was replaced in April 2011.
The eight screeners fired after reporting for work this morning were all transportation security officers, or TSOs, rank-and-file employees who make up the bulk of the 1,400 TSA employees in Newark, the TSA said. The TSOs, who were not identified, worked in a bag room at Terminal B, the TSA said. All eight are barred from future employment with the agency.
All eight of the TSOs plan to appeal their terminations and seek to be reinstated, said Mecca Scott, a national organizer with the Association of Federal Government Employees, the union that represents the screeners.
“An attorney will sit down with each and every one of them,” Scott said.
The employees were captured on videotape failing to follow standard operating procedures for screen checked bags, the agency said, adding that some of the screeners were videotaped sleeping in the bag room. Unlike security checkpoints where passengers are screened, bag rooms are out of public view.
The investigation is continuing, and action may be taken against additional employees, the TSA said.
A TSA spokeswoman, Lisa Farbstein, released a statement on the dismissals.
“TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace,” the statement read. “Accountability is an important aspect of our work and TSA takes prompt and appropriate action with any employee who does not follow our procedures and engages in misconduct. The decision to take disciplinary action, including the proposed immediate removal of eight individuals from the TSA reaffirms our strong commitment to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to hold all our employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability.”