Case law updates

Failure to interview witnesses did not amount to an unreasonable investigation

In Moncrieffe v London Underground Limited the EAT found that notwithstanding the employer’s failure to interview two potential witnesses, and the long and unblemished service of the claimant, the Tribunal had not been wrong to conclude that there had been a reasonable investigation.

Moncrieffe, a train driver, was dismissed after an investigation found that he had falsely claimed that a wallet found in the driver’s cab of a train left in a siding belonged to him. The evidence was that a cleaner had found the wallet, had notified one of the drivers who had asked the claimant if it was his. The claimant said it was and so the driver gave it to him. Later a third driver claimed that the wallet belonged to him.

A claim for unfair dismissal was rejected by the Tribunal on the basis that the employer had reasonable grounds for rejecting the claimant’s account that he believed it was his wallet.

At the Appeal Moncrieffe argued that the investigation was not sufficiently extensive, given the nature of the allegation and the potentially serious consequences for him. He maintained that as there was an issue of whether he had been on the train in question, his manager should have been interviewed, and the driver who had claimed to own the wallet should also have been interviewed in depth to deal with discrepancies in the various descriptions of the wallet.

The EAT noted the grave consequences of the finding of dishonesty. However, it did not accept that the seriousness of the matter meant that a heightened investigatory burden was placed on the employer. The same standard applied in all gross misconduct cases. Although there were shortcomings the EAT said that the Tribunal was entitled to conclude that the investigation undertaken by the employer was a reasonable one when viewed in the round.