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Outcome of unfair dismissal case welcomed by Employers

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In Orr v Milton Keynes Council1 the appellant appealed against a decision that had refused his claim for unfair dismissal against the respondent local authority. The claimant (O) had, in the course of his employment, acted in breach of specific instructions from his manager (M1), and in subsequent discussions about working hours had been rude and aggressive towards him. Another manager (M2) heard the resultant disciplinary hearing and concluded that these actions amounted to gross misconduct and therefore dismissed the claimant. At the Tribunal it was claimed by O that during the discussions about working hours M1 had used statements that amounted to racial discrimination. The other manager (M2) had not been not aware of the background to the second incident when deciding whether the actions of the claimant had amounted to gross misconduct; and therefore the central issue of the claim was whether the knowledge of one manager could be imputed on to another manager who makes the decision to dismiss. The Court of Appeal concluded that for the purpose of deciding whether a dismissal is unfair, it is only the person who is carrying out the disciplinary process whose knowledge represents the knowledge of the employer. Therefore when considering whether an employer had acted reasonably in finding a sufficient reason for dismissing an employee there was no justification for imputing onto the person conducting the disciplinary proceedings knowledge that they did not have and which they could not reasonably have obtained. This meant that the dismissing manager (M2) could not reasonably have known something that wasn’t otherwise revealed in the course of his investigations and the dismissal was not unfair. Employers must therefore ensure that they take all reasonable steps to ensure that a fair investigation is carried out. So long as the person conducting the dismissal proceedings carries out a fair and thorough investigation, the only facts relevant in determining whether a dismissal is fair are those known to the decision maker. - For additional information please contact: Alexandra Dean of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.