Case law updates

ET understands reason for employer interference in choice of companion

In Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, an Employment Tribunal held that whilst the employer breached the claimant’s right to be accompanied when it refused to allow his chosen companions to accompany him at a disciplinary appeal hearing, it awarded just £2 in compensation on the basis that there were understandable reasons for the refusal.

Disciplinary proceedings were brought against Gnahoua, a bus driver who was caught looking at an iPad while driving his bus. He was represented at the disciplinary hearing by a Unite official. The decision was made to dismiss. On appeal Gnahoua told his employer that he wished to be accompanied by two brothers who had formed the PTSC union, of which the claimant had now become a member.

The employer indicated that, while it was happy with someone else from the PTSC union attending, it had banned both brothers from representing its staff at hearings. This was because of one brother’s “threatening behaviour” towards members of staff whilst an employee and both brothers’ “dishonesty” in allegedly falsifying the date on a witness statement. Gnahoua eventually went unrepresented at the appeal, where the dismissal was upheld. He made an ET claim that included denial of the right to be accompanied.

Whilst the ET accepted that, technically, the employer had breached the claimant’s right to be accompanied and, as a general rule it is undesirable for an employer to exercise a veto over the choice, in this case it was hard to criticise the actions of the employer. The ET pointed out that the Acas Code had been followed and the employer had interfered in the choice of companion only because there were strong grounds for doing so.