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Employment cases of 2021 driver refusing to wear a face mask during covid

Posted on 17 January 2022

Top 10 tribunal cases of 2021!

Posted in Legal news

We have taken a somewhat cynical view of what 'Top 10' means as this is an overview of the types of case which you may yet experience and hopefully would want to avoid! You don’t have to be eagle eyed to spot there are 5 detailed here - the remainder will be added next week! Remember to check back in with us again.

Unfair dimissal claim

1. Worker absent for 800 shifts during career was unfairly dismissed, tribunal finds

A worker who was absent for 808 shifts over a 20-year career – costing the firm an estimated £95,850 in sick pay – won an unfair dismissal claim after a tribunal found his former employer had not followed its own absence management procedures.

The Birmingham employment tribunal found Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) unfairly dismissed Mr V Rumbold, who had worked in various car assembly roles for the manufacturer from February 1999 until his dismissal on 7 December 2018. Yes, it did take a while to reach the tribunal. Because of its failure to follow these procedures, the tribunal ruled that by the time JLR decided to end Rumbold’s employment, dismissal was “not a sanction which fell within the range of reasonable responses available to them”.

Discrimination at work

2. Office manager denied remote working because boss ‘knew what was best for her’ awarded £60k at tribunal.

An office manager was discriminated against after she was told she was not allowed to work remotely from her son’s hospital bedside as he underwent treatment for cancer.

The Leeds employment tribunal found that Lorraine Hodgson, who worked for Martin Design Associates until her resignation in July 2019, was directly discriminated against on the grounds of sex and was constructively unfairly dismissed after her boss denied her remote working request in part because of “his belief that he knew best for the claimant”.

Judge Wade found the firm’s managing director, Chris Martin, made the decision that Hodgson “could not work and look after her son’s needs in hospital, whatever she thought”, and that Martin “gave her views no credit [and] had a closed mind to the idea that she could fulfil all or part of her role remotely”. This was despite the fact a company laptop and telephone was available and much of her work could have been completed remotely.

Social media policy

3. Worker unfairly dismissed for complaining about boss on Facebook, tribunal rules

A paint sprayer was awarded £28,000 for unfair dismissal after a judge ruled his employer’s investigation into whether he had breached social media policy was inadequate.

The tribunal ruled that the managing director of A1M Retro Classics “unreasonably confused what was required of an employee by the [company’s] social media policy” after a worker for the firm, Michael Austin, posted a Facebook status referring to an argument the pair had had.

A number of Austin’s Facebook friends made comments on the post, some of which were homophobic and in which the commenter suggested Austin should “punch his boss in the face because it would make him feel better”.

However the judge ruled that the company's social media policy “did not require the employee to police the comments of others” and that there was no evidence that would have supported to a reasonable employer the contention that the employee was engaging in a prohibited discussion.

Landmark tribunal

4. Lorry driver sacked for refusing to wear face mask was not unfairly dismissed, landmark ruling shows

The East London Hearing Centre ruled that a delivery driver fired for refusing to wear a face covering inside his cab while delivering to a supplier during the UK’s first Covid lockdown was not unfairly dismissed. The tribunal found that Kent Foods Limited had lost confidence in delivery driver Deimantas Kubilius’ future conduct after his refusal to wear a face mask led him to be banned from a supplier’s site.

The landmark tribunal held that while Kubilius was not at the time aware of his requirement to wear a mask inside his cab, his “continued insistence” that he had done nothing wrong and “lack of remorse” made the employer’s decision to dismiss a fair and reasonable response. The judge added that it was “not feasible for the claimant to continue in his contractual role” because of the ban.

Bullying and harassment at work

5. NHS worker subjected to ‘stressful’ practical joke by manager was unfairly dismissed, tribunal finds

An NHS worker “ostracised” by her team and subjected to an “extremely stressful” prank was awarded almost £10,000 for bullying and harassment. Carol Hurley, who worked as deputy finance business partner for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust from October 2016 until her resignation in September 2018, was sent fake emails by her line manager, who pretended that Hurley had to give a presentation the next day as a practical joke, the tribunal heard.

After she raised the prank as an issue with another manager, Hurley began to be excluded by her colleagues and was subjected to other incidents. The tribunal heard that shared spreadsheets she had updated were tampered with and information deleted, and at one point the contents of her desk drawers had been removed while she was away from it, including useful notes from her training

Please contact us for advice on any employment law issue, to review your businesses policies or to discuss a dismissal. 

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