We report on a further case sanctioning the dismissal of an employee for poor conduct.
In April 2017, a judgment was handed down by the Court of Appeal in the case of Adeshina v St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Adeshina was employed as the principal pharmacist at Wandsworth Prison, employed by St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. She was involved in leading a project to re-organise the way in which prison pharmacy services were to be provided, moving from being a nurse-led to a pharmacist-led system. Ms Adeshina objected to these proposals, and openly showed this disapproval. Concerns were subsequently raised about her lack of leadership in the process and disciplinary proceedings were commenced. She was dismissed for gross misconduct due to her poor attitude and lack of engagement with this project.
The Employment Tribunal dismissed her claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and race discrimination, finding as a matter of fact that she had deliberately resisted a project that she was supposed to be leading.
Ms Adeshina’s subsequent appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) was then dismissed, and she further appealed to the Court of Appeal. Here she argued that the misconduct that was found against her was incapable of amounting to gross misconduct. She also argued that the allegations against her had not been clear.
Her arguments were rejected by the Court of Appeal and her dismissal was upheld. In giving reasons, the Court of Appeal confirmed that despite various challenges raised by the Claimant regarding procedural matters, her conduct was sufficiently serious to amount to a fundamental breach of contract for which she could be legitimately dismissed. It was considered that she understood the allegations that she was facing and could therefore put forward her version of events.
This case demonstrates how poor attitude by an employee, if sufficiently serious, can fairly amount to gross misconduct and result in dismissal. Although this case should not be considered as a carte-blanche for employers to make ‘poor attitude’ dismissals, it demonstrates that a seriously bad attitude that would fundamentally damage the employment relationship can ultimately lead to fair dismissal.