Four Virgin Atlantic employees who were fired for sending inappropriate emails have successfully sued the airline for unfair dismissal.

Three of the employees were sacked after forwarding to colleagues a video purported to be of a Taliban fighter having sex with a donkey.

Speaking exclusively to Skyport, one of the sacked employees said: “It’s a night vision clip so all you can make out is green with black blobs, it’s really very tame.

“When we were dismissed I showed the video to my mother and she wasn’t offended by it.”

The former turnaround co-ordinator, who asked not to be named, also accidently sent the clip to a staff bulletin board in April 2010 and weeks later he and three colleagues were sacked for gross misconduct for breaching the company’s email usage policy.

Between them the four staff members had 17 years of service at the airline and all had clean disciplinary records.

The four appeared at an employment tribunal in Croydon in June and argued that the sending of non work-related emails was common amongst employees at the airline and included attachments ranging from jokes to material of a pornographic nature.

To support their claims, the former employees presented a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that the sending of such emails was an accepted practice within the company and management were frequently involved in the sending and receiving of such emails.

The former employees also claimed they had not been made aware of Virgin’s email and IT usage policy.

Last week the group, who were all based at Gatwick Airport, were informed that the tribunal had found in their favour, although the panel decided the claimants had contributed to their dismissal by the order of 60 per cent.

The former turnaround co-ordinator said: “To be honest we just feel relieved that it’s now over.

“It happened in April 2010 and for me things were a struggle as I had a new child in November so I’m just relieved it’s behind us, that justice has been done and that we can hold our heads up high knowing we’ve done nothing wrong.

“It’s a shame really because we all enjoyed working there and we would have liked things to have been dealt with differently, but unfortunately the company was not forthcoming in giving us another chance.”

Another of the group said he felt particularly aggrieved since the email he was dismissed for sending was sent from home, on a day off, using a personal email account.

He said: “The company highlighted the part of the policy they claimed I had breached and the judge said it had nothing to do with people sat at home. I took a great deal of satisfaction when the judge said that.”

The airline said it was surprised and disappointed by the verdict.

A spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic takes all issues of misconduct very seriously and expects all employees to adhere to its high standards of conduct and behaviour.

“Given the significant breaches of the company’s IT policy, we are therefore both surprised and disappointed with the Tribunal’s decision.

“Virgin Atlantic takes confidence in the fact that all four claimants were held to have contributed to their dismissals.”