London underground dismissal procedurally unfair
Tracy Webb caused huge upset to her colleagues when she referred to George Floyd, the black man killed by a white police officer in the USA in 2020 (which inspired ‘Black Lives Matter’) as “scum”.
Her posts on Facebook were criticised by the tribunal judge, and on the face of it there would appear to be merit in her dismissal, given she was a senior manager with a culturally diverse workforce to look after.
London Underground’s dismissal was found instead to be procedurally unfair because of the process they followed. What did they get wrong, and what can we learn from the ruling?
The dismissal and appeal was “predetermined”
The judge found that the managers overseeing the disciplinary hearing and appeal had predetermined the outcome.
It’s important to be impartial and unbiased during hearings, to give employees a fair chance to state their case, and to make decisions based on employee’s conduct and its impact, rather than personal opinions on, in this case, the views of the employee.
It is likely that in their evidence, the hearing managers failed to convince the tribunal that dismissal would be the only acceptable outcome.
The hearing managers were “ill equipped” to handle the hearings
Handling hearings is a management skill, and not one that comes easily to most, but it can be taught and myHRdept’s management development training is one way to ensure managers are well prepared.
The employee’s previous service and record was not adequately considered
Tracy Webb had 32 years service, but the tribunal felt that this, and her previously good record was not considered.
An employee’s previous service may be the difference between a dismissal and a warning, and it is entirely possible to apply different outcomes for the same offence because one employee has a more established blemish-free history than another. Alternatives to dismissal should have been seriously considered prior to making the decision to dismiss – and London Underground done this, the dismissal may well have been found fair.
The dismissal process was a “box ticking exercise”, hence the dismissal was procedurally unfair
The criticism speaks for itself, and simply following the letter of the policy is not enough to reach a safe decision to dismiss.
This case really boiled down to impartiality. The tribunal felt the manager’s dismissing Webb had made that decision long before Webb walked into the hearing. If managers feel they cannot approach a hearing neutrally, they should step aside and ask another manager to assume the role.
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