News in brief
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 217 12 May 2011
An employment tribunal last week unanimously found that an RMT health and safety official, Eamonn Lynch, was unfairly dismissed because of his trade union activities.
It decided that he had been dismissed principally because of his membership of a health and safety committee. As this role was inextricably bound up with his status as a union organiser, it concluded he had also been dismissed because of his trade union activities.
London Underground had failed to follow their own procedures when deciding to refer his case to a company dismissal hearing, said the tribunal, which concluded that his case had very likely been widely discussed among managers.
As for the manager who conducted the appeal, Chris Taggart, the tribunal said he was more interested in absolving his colleagues (the managers who conducted the disciplinary hearing) from blame instead of investigating Mr Lynch’s case fairly.
It was clear to the tribunal that the fact that Mr Lynch was a health and safety committee member prayed heavily on the minds of the disciplinary panel, not least because one of the witnesses mentioned it four times in the course of the hearing.
It also found that Mr Lynch was a straightforward and truthful witness in contrast with Ms Alana Stewart, the chair of the disciplinary panel whom the tribunal found to be an unsatisfactory and unreliable witness.
It therefore concluded that dismissal was far too harsh a sanction and no reasonable employer would have decided that dismissing Mr Lynch was proportionate in the circumstances.
Zillur Rahman, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “It was clear from the outset that Mr Lynch had been dismissed because of his involvement in the health and safety committee. He admitted making an error and had never been disciplined before, yet he was dismissed while others who had committed more serious offences were not. Given the mitigating factors in his case and the absence of an aggravating feature such as covering up his offence or prior warning, no reasonable employer would have found the threshold was met in this case and the tribunal clearly agreed.”