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Employee’s admissions had impact on employer’s investigation
In CRO Ports London Limited v Wiltshire, the EAT held that a Tribunal was wrong when it considered the impact made by the employee admitting misconduct on the reasonableness of the employer’s investigation. The employer had relied on the admissions made by the employee during the investigation and at the disciplinary hearing. The question for the Tribunal was whether, in doing so and limiting the scope of its investigation as a result, the employer acted within the range of reasonable responses open to it. The EAT considered that the Tribunal has drawn conclusions about what would have been discovered had it undertaken further investigations and had not appreciated the significance of the admissions which were made at the time.
The Claimant was a supervisor for CRO Ports London Limited and his job involved supervision the lifting of containers by cranes. There was a mechanism for dealing with problems lifting containers in a way which was not compliant with health and safety; but that was not the issue. It was a practice which was normally used and in this particular instance was used; but the container fell from the crane and was badly damaged. The Claimant was suspended. He has 22 years service and an unblemished record. Given that he knew the company condoned the practice which had resulted in the container falling, he took full responsibility for his actions, believing he would be reprimanded but not dismissed. He noted that the company had effectively sanctioned the practice and the main motivation was time pressure. He admitted at the hearing that his error was a dangerous act.
Consequently the disciplinary officer found that, because he had admitted and condoned the practice and had failed to report or stop it, there was no option but to dismiss him for gross misconduct. Because of his admissions, the employer did not investigate further the reasons why he had done what he had done and in particular the fact that the company condoned the practice. Probably a case which turns on its facts but quite interesting nonetheless.
The case has been remitted for a fresh hearing.
This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.
For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.
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