Brawling bus driver unfairly dismissed by employer after faulty investigation
The case of Taylor v Metroline Travel Ltd highlights the need for employers to conduct a fair investigation before considering the dismissal of employees.
Mr Taylor was a bus driver for Metroline Travel (‘Metroline’). On 25 November 2020, Mr Taylor was involved in a physical altercation with a driver from another bus operator, Sullivan Buses. According to Mr Taylor’s incident report, which was quoted by the Tribunal in the judgment, the other driver had tried to bite Mr Taylor and threatened to take his life after becoming angry that Mr Taylor had parked in a bay that he was trying to manoeuvre into. The Sullivan driver had used the emergency button to open the doors of the Metroline bus, boarded and reached into his pocket at which point Mr Taylor, fearing for his safety, pushed him away.
Mr Taylor was suspended a few days after the altercation when Metroline received an email from Sullivan Buses alleging that Mr Taylor has punched one of their drivers in the head resulting in that person attending hospital for head injuries. The incident had been captured on CCTV.
Mr Taylor was invited to an investigation meeting to discuss the incident. This went ahead despite the fact that Metroline were aware that neither Mr Taylor nor his union representative had been given access to the CCTV recording of the incident prior to the meeting. Mr Taylor’s union representative was also not permitted to attend Metroline’s premises on Covid grounds and therefore could not be present at the meeting. It was decided at the investigation meeting that the matter involved potential gross misconduct by Mr Taylor and should be escalated to a formal disciplinary hearing. This hearing subsequently took place, resulting in Mr Taylor being dismissed from his role.
The Tribunal found Metroline’s investigation to be flawed in a number of ways, including the failure to provide Mr Taylor or his representative with the CCTV footage before the investigation meeting and to request a statement from the Sullivan’s driver. No evidence of hospital admission by the Sullivan’s driver or medical report appeared to have been requested by Metroline and there was no evidence of the police report of the incident. The Tribunal criticised Metroline for its “almost total reliance on CCTV footage for evidence”. After having reviewed the CCTV footage themselves, the Tribunal also stated they had difficulty in coming to the view that there was evidence of Mr Taylor punching the other driver – an accusation which Mr Taylor denied throughout the internal investigation.
Whilst the Tribunal concluded that Mr Taylor had been unfairly dismissed, they also considered whether Mr Taylor had contributed to his dismissal by his own conduct. They concluded that, notwithstanding that the Sullivan’s driver had adopted an aggressive manner, Mr Taylor should not have engaged in a heated exchange and did have a window in which to call for assistance before the other driver stepped onto his bus. Therefore he had contributed to the dismissal to a limited extent. Mr Taylor’s award of compensation, to be decided at a future hearing, will be reduced by 20% in order to reflect this.
At didlaw, our solicitors routinely help our client’s navigate investigation and disciplinary hearings. If you are facing disciplinary action at work, feel you have been treated unreasonably or perhaps unfairly dismissed due to your employer’s decision to discipline you, we would be happy to hear from you.
This blog was written by Michael Green, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.