Case law updates

Tribunal rules for wrongful dismissal following flawed investigation

A mental health practitioner, Mr Gormley, dismissed for gross misconduct in March 2023 after City of York council received a formal complaint about comments he was alleged to have made to colleagues, has won his case and £60k compensation for wrongful dismissal following a flawed investigation.

The complainant had referred to a number of comments that Mr Gormley had allegedly made including about what they were wearing, telling a “strange story”, and an intention to touch their knee while the two were in the car together.

Gormley was suspended in October 2022 during an investigation, following a disciplinary hearing in March 2023 he was dismissed, and his appeal not upheld.

The dismissal letter said the council found Gormley had “engaged in behaviour including unwanted innuendo and unwelcome jokes or comments that were sexist” and noted that a colleague had described him as a “misogynist”. 

However, the Tribunal found that there was little or no evidence that the complainant felt vulnerable or offended by the alleged comments, and that there was no reasonable conclusion that the telling of the story was sexual intimidation or bullying, as the council had argued..

The judgment said that the investigation had not been reasonable as the statements about innuendos and sexist remarks were lacking in specificity and largely generic. There had been no follow-up questions to ask what innuendo or unwelcome jokes or comments had actually been made and in what circumstances they had been made. The finding of gross misconduct had not therefore been formed on reasonable grounds after a reasonable investigation. The judgment concluded that “The standard of the investigation and the decision to summarily dismiss was flawed and outside the band of reasonable responses.”