Case law updates

EAT highlights need for investigators to share all relevant information with disciplinary officers

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that an employee was unfairly dismissed because the officer investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against him did not pass on relevant information to the manager undertaking the hearing.

The appeal was brought by a council worker at the London Borough of Ealing, Mr Uddin, who had been dismissed for alleged sexual misconduct following an incident in a pub after work, when a student on a work placement alleged that she had been assaulted by him.

The allegations were investigated and the complainant encouraged to go to the police, but after a police officer identified inconsistencies and discrepancies in her account, she withdrew the allegations.

Uddin was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing, but it later emerged that the disciplinary officer did not know that the complaint had been withdrawn.

Uddin lodged a claim for unfair dismissal, which was rejected by the Employment Tribunal. The tribunal concluded that Ealing had reasonable grounds for firing Uddin, and that the disciplinary officer had had all the evidence needed to make the decision.

However, at the EAT Uddin contended that a November 2019 judgment by the UK Supreme Court meant that the investigating officer’s knowledge of the complaint’s withdrawal should have been provided to the council and the disciplinary officer.

The judgement referred to the “high investigative standard” dictated by fairness in such cases. This meant that the disciplinary officer should have taken the withdrawal of the complaint into account. If the tribunal had approached the issue correctly, it would have found that the dismissal was unfair. The case will now go back to the Employment Tribunal to be reconsidered.