Unfair procedure resulted in an unfair dismissal

An HGV driver who got into a fight with a colleague was unfairly dismissed  by DHL after ‘procedural’ flaws during disciplinary proceedings, a tribunal has ruled. The employee allegedly spat at a colleague and caused him to pull over on to the hard shoulder of a motorway.

The tribunal ruled that DHL failed to show that it truly believed the employee was at fault for misbehaviour and failed to provide a detail of the precise criticisms or claims which needed to be addressed. Apparently the employee’s colleague behaved towards him in an increasingly disparaging manner, referring to him as his “dog”, labelling him a liar, and making threats against him and his family.

The disciplinary the evidence was contradictory and there was a failure to properly investigate both sides of the situation. It added that the disciplinary had “failed to consider whether it was appropriate to impose a sanction of summary dismissal or whether some lesser sanction would have sufficed. Additionally, it was procedurally improper to not inform the claimant precisely what criticisms/allegations were to be addressed.

The judge also said that procedural flaws, including meeting minutes’ contradictory responses regarding employee representatives, and the claimant’s lack of access to investigation meetings minutes, rendered the process unfair. For this reason, the tribunal ruled that the employee was unfairly dismissed by DHL.

The employee was awarded a basic award of £1,998.50 and a compensatory award of £2,594.88. When conducting an investigation it is vital that employers genuinely believe the employee was guilty of misconduct, that this belief is based on reasonable grounds, that a reasonable investigation and fair process is completed and that dismissal is a reasonable outcome in the circumstances.

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