Failure to deal with complaints may result in constructive dismissal

A bar manager who was left with anxiety, PTSD and partial facial paralysis after she was choked by a colleague at a staff Christmas party was constructively unfairly dismissed, according to an employment Tribunal. The judge ruled that the employees’ resignation amounted to an unfair dismissal after her employer failed to properly investigate her complaint.

Apparently the employee overheard one of the company directors joking about the incident, in which a chef had allegedly gripped the employee’s neck and left her unconscious.

The incident took place on New Year’s Day 2017 on the club premises. CCTV footage showed the chef put his arm around the bar manager’s neck. After a few seconds, she tried to push him off before going limp and falling to the ground. It was then that other members of staff realised something was wrong and rushed to help her.

The employee told the tribunal that when she woke up the next day she had no recollection of the incident and believed she had suffered a stroke. It was only after she returned to work to check CCTV footage from the night that she realisedthe incident had occurred.

The court found the directors’ response to the CCTV evidence was unsatisfactory. The employee told her employers she had begun lose faith in their ability to keep her safe in her workplace and felt she had no other option but to quit after they failed to take her complaint seriously.

The judge found that the employer acted in a way which was dismissive of the claimant’s feelings about the incident. He told her to ‘get over it’.

Constructive dismissal occurs when employees who feel their employer has “irretrievably broken the trust and confidence” leave their employment and treat themselves as having been dismissed. Employers who do not take complaints from their staff seriously may run the risk of a finding that they are in breach of this term, meaning the employee is entitled to leave their employment in reaction to it.

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