Unite shop steward compensated after unfair dismissal22 June 2010
A Unite shop steward who was sacked after swearing at his line manager has received compensation for unfair dismissal.
Keith Bodman, from Blackwood in Gwent, had a 100% attendance and a clean work record over 16 years of working for Yuasa Battery (UK) Limited before the incident in August 2009.
There was a culture of using foul language at the battery manufacturer and on the day of the incident Mr Bodman swore at his line manager after he was repeatedly questioned about his private life.
The machine operator and inspector used a non aggressive tone and was not malicious but the next day he was suspended for two weeks before being dismissed.
The shop steward of 10 years appealed against the decision and despite support from the line manager and other colleagues who confirmed that use of bad language was common place he was not allowed to return to work.
Following his dismissal his union, Unite, instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue the case at Employment Tribunal.
Thompsons found that bad language was often ignored in the factory but on the occasions where staff had been disciplined in the past the maximum penalty had been a written warning which was kept on their files for six months.
Thompsons argued that Yuasa had treated Mr Bodman differently from other employees. Part way through the Employment Tribunal the employers settled the claim.
Mr Bodman said: “I’m not proud of the language I used that day but the factory floor was a very male environment where bad language was commonplace. I didn’t feel I was being aggressive and my foreman and colleagues confirmed that so I was shocked when I was told I was being suspended.
“I never thought I would end up losing my job, especially as colleagues had only been given written warnings for using worse language in the past. I’m grateful the union supported me through Employment Tribunal. After 16 years clean work record it was important to me that my name was cleared.”
Bryan Godsell, Regional Co-ordinating Officer for South Wales from Unite added: “This was an important case for us. The employer used what was unfortunately common in the workplace as an excuse to dismiss Mr Bodman. There was clear evidence that other employees had been treated less harshly in the past and given his clean work record Mr Bodman should have been treated in the same way. This demonstrates how important it is for employees to have the backing of Unite the Union in their workplace”
Rebecca Spence from Thompsons Solicitors said: “This employer’s response to the use of bad language was unreasonable given how other employees had been dealt with in the past.”
This news story was also published by Wales Online.