tomato plantA council clerk, accused of favouritism over the way he handed out tomato plants to colleagues, has won his legal battle for unfair dismissal.

Richard Chapman, dismissed by Malvern Town Council after 12 “unblemished years” lost his job following allegations of bullying, harassment and favouritism. He was dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct. The tribunal judge said the council’s investigation was flawed and ‘acted outside the bounds of reasonable responses’ in dismissing Mr Chapman.

The tomato incident was presented as one example of the former clerk’s favouritism. One woman worker claimed Mr Chapman had doled out the plants from his greenhouse to all staff members except her.

The tribunal was also told that the council investigated allegations Mr Chapman had shouted at two staff members and bellowed at another individual in a Malvern car park after allegedly falling foul of a car park attendant. The local authority alleged he had “breached the council’s bullying and harassment policy.”  Mr Chapman was suspended, eventually allowed to return to work and later dismissed in April.

After the four-day hearing tribunal judge said Mr Chapman had been unfairly dismissed.

The judge said the investigation had been flawed and that the council had failed to “pin down” and make the allegations clear to Mr Chapman.

“The council acted outside the bounds of reasonable responses in dismissing Mr Chapman,” she said. The judge concluded she had rarely heard a case “where the unfairness of the dismissal was so apparent to me”.

The council and Mr Chapman reached an agreement in private over the amount he would be awarded. Article from the Birmingham Mail.

How much time and money do you think this cost the Council?  4 days in a tribunal and they lost the case!

That’s why when we are advising clients on a disciplinary process we always explain how important carrying out the investigation is and making sure the allegations are clear.  The investigation is so important but many people want to skip this bit.  You can’t afford to – the tribunal will look very closely at your investigation process, your notes and the allegations.

If you are unsure what steps to take when carrying out an investigation or a disciplinary then follow the steps in our ‘Managers Guide to Carrying Out A Disciplinary’.  Download your copy here.  If you need HR advice then email or call 01980 755075