Case law updates

Tribunal finds for dismissed warehouse worker after employer committed ‘numerous’ and ‘serious’ breaches of ACAS Code

A warehouse worker who was sacked after a colleague discovered an online video of him being confronted by paedophile hunters while waiting to meet a 14-year-old girl was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal ruled.  It heard that the claimant had been s recorded by two individuals who approached him, claiming he was on his way to meet a 14-year-old girl. Although the worker he did not dispute being in the video, shot in 2016, the tribunal heard that it was edited and that the two individuals who approached him beat him up and that one had subsequently been arrested for forging evidence. After police investigated the claims, the Crown Prosecution Service had opted not to prosecute the claimant. 

The tribunal heard that his employer, Gypsumtools, had failed to consider other options after seeing the video and dismissing him, and had failed to make any further enquiries with his solicitor before the decision was made.

When the video had been brought to the employer’s attention the worker was called to a meeting. He was not given any information about the aim or subject of the meeting and was not aware of his entitlement to a companion. The worker’s explanation of the background and result of the event, including an email from his solicitor proving he had not been prosecuted and that he had a valid DBS certificate were not given any weight. 

Later, in the same letter where his grievance about the conduct of that meeting had been dismissed, his employment was terminated on the grounds that there was now a fundamental and irretrievable breakdown in work relations, the risk of reputational damage to the company and a breakdown in trust and confidence between him and the company.

The judge also ruled that the way the meeting has been conducted “offended natural justice” and the “fundamental principles of fair treatment”, as the claimant was denied a fair hearing, and the matter was not decided by someone who was impartial. Alternative options had also not been considered before the decision to dismiss.

The tribunal concluded that there had been a failure to follow the ACAS Code of practice, that the breaches were “serious” and “numerous” and that the handling of the situation amounted to unfair dismissal.  The claimant was awarded £21,449.93 made up of basic award, loss of statutory rights, compensation, Acas uplift and mitigation.