"I lost my job after a fight. Can I claim for unfair dismissal?" | Paul Doran Law

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“I lost my job after a fight. Can I claim for unfair dismissal?”

Even in extreme circumstances, you may be entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal if your employer does take all of the facts into consideration or fails to follow the correct procedure.

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Sebastian France was an oil trader at Spectron Services, earning up to £480,000 per year.

Since 2012, his ‘aggressive’ manager, Danny Fenn, regularly called Sebastian a ‘c***’. Danny wrote ‘fat lump’ and ‘butters’ on Sebastian’s wage slips, and ‘posh tw*t’ on his bonus letter. He was also told to ‘f*** off home’, and that he was a ‘f***ing wuss’.

In March 2015, Sebastian walked out of the office to defuse another onslaught of abuse – but Danny grabbed him and ripped his shirt in an attempt to stop him leaving.

In June 2015, Sebastian checked into the Priory for 11 days to be treated for depression and anxiety. A consultant psychiatrist found the stress was “principally coming from one person at work”.

Sebastian started recording the abuse, which ultimately resulted in a brawl between the pair that left Sebastian with a bruised chin. His £50,000 bonus was also revoked.

Eventually Sebastian lodged a formal grievance, then resigned in 2016 and started legal proceedings for unfair dismissal.

At the tribunal, the company admitted that swearing was not unusual in the high-pressure environment, and that Danny had a ‘volatile’ management style. It was found that Sebastian had been unfairly dismissed because of Danny’s ‘verbal insults and abuse’.

He won his case.

Example 2

Ali Sadeghi worked at TK Maxx for around 13 years, ending up as general manager of their High Street Kensington store.

Soon after his promotion in 2016, it was alleged that Ali behaved inappropriately towards some colleagues. In the ensuing investigation, he revealed that he suffered from depression and anxiety, including suicidal thoughts that affected his sleep and mood, and made him quick to anger. However, he was receiving therapy and taking medication for his condition.

Later that year, a customer tried to return a pair of trainers to the store. Ali refused to issue a refund because it appeared the trainers had been worn outside, which is in line with the company’s returns policy.

Ali claimed the unhappy customer then abused and swore at him before pulling out his phone to record the incident.

Because TK Maxx had previously been involved in a TV programme that included covert recordings at their stores, Ali knew company policy was that employees should prevent recordings being made.

He therefore reached over the counter to pull the customer’s phone away.

The customer refused to let go, until a contract cleaner tapped him on the shoulder and grabbed the phone, throwing it to Ali.

The police were called and escorted the customer off the premises.

The customer wrote to TK Maxx to complain, claiming that Ali tried to steal his phone, then the cleaner punched him, and then Ali and a security guard joined in.

The company viewed CCTV footage of the incident, called Ali to a disciplinary hearing, and dismissed him for gross misconduct.

Ali took TK Maxx to the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. The tribunal concluded that the company had instigated their disciplinary procedure without obtaining a proper medical opinion to confirm whether Ali’s mental health issues were ongoing.

He won his case.

Example 3

At the end of 2014, Kevin Grace lost his job as Commercial Director at Tesco, because the company claimed he had overstated profit expectations. They gave him four day’s notice and accused him of being “culpable to a high degree”.

Kevin maintains he wasn’t responsible for the problem, and in 2016, the Serious Fraud Office decided not to charge him. He is now suing Tesco for lost income and benefits totalling £635,807.

In an ongoing trial, three other former executives face charges of false accounting and fraud.

We await the outcome with interest.

Further reading

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