Unfair dismissal based on reputational damage

A warehouse worker, dismissed 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, according to an employment tribunal. 

After police investigated the claims, the Crown Prosecution Service opted not to prosecute the claimant, but the tribunal heard that his employer failed to consider other options after seeing the video. He was pulled into a disciplinary meeting without having been formally invited nor given the right to be accompanied.  The Claimant described the disciplinary meeting as a “kangaroo court”. The meeting concluded with the claimant sent home to consider two options – resign or be dismissed.

He subsequently raised a grievance about the meeting, having been signed off sick with work-related stress, anxiety and low mood.  The employer dismissed the grievance and instead, in the grievance outcome, confirmed that the employee had been dismissed.  Stating that there is “a fundamental and irretrievable breakdown in work relations between yourself and your work colleagues due to your actions”. The letter went on to say that “there is also a risk of reputational damage involved in continuing your employment. There is a breakdown in trust and confidence between you and the company. Your position has become untenable.”

The employment tribunal ruled that the process did not follow the principles of fair treatment, as the Claimant was denied a fair and impartial hearing. There was a failure to follow the ACAS code of practice and that the dismissal was therefore unfair. 

The claimant was awarded £21,449.93, made up of basic award, loss of statutory rights, compensation, ACAS uplift and mitigation. 

When reputational damage or relationship breakdown are provided as reasons for dismissal, it is vital that compelling evidence of the reputational damage or relationship breakdown is demonstrated. There cannot be an assumption of either.  For advice in respect of fair dismissal where reputational damage may be apparent, contact 121 HR Solutions onenquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk.

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