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Chef wins £11,000 dismissal claim despite biting police officers

Posted: 30th July 2015   In: Business Employment

A hotel chef has won £11,000 compensation after he was “unfairly dismissed” for biting two police officers during a drunken row.

The Employment Tribunal heard that James Harvey was the head chef at a hotel in Guernsey. Last March, he got into an argument with his girlfriend at the hotel and was accused of assaulting two members of staff.

He also assaulted a police officer and a special constable who were called to the scene. One was bitten on the finger and the other on the leg. Harvey then spat blood at them.

He was jailed for 18 months by the court in Guernsey and was dismissed from his job at the hotel.

He later brought a claim of unfair dismissal. The tribunal ruled in his favour saying that although Vista Hotels had good reasons to dismiss him, it had not followed the correct procedures. Harvey had only been formally notified of his dismissal six months after his arrest. The hotel should also have contacted him in prison to get his side of the story before dismissing him for gross misconduct.

The tribunal said that the “complete absence of a disciplinary process with no right of appeal did not fall within the band of reasonable responses open to an employer in justifying the fairness of a summary dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct for a first disciplinary offence”.

Tim Coates, Vista’s commercial director, told the Times newspaper: “It’s ridiculous. He was convicted of a crime that included multiple accounts of GBH and assault of local police, hotel staff, damage to property, resisting arrest and bringing the company into disrepute.

“The level of award seems to reward the individual for gross misconduct. Although we failed on a technical breach, the individual committed gross misconduct under any normal circumstance. Common sense really should have been used. The tribunal needs to assess what constitutes gross misconduct.”

This is, of course, a somewhat extreme case but it illustrates the need for following the correct procedures when dismissing an employee, no matter how straightforward the circumstances may appear to be.

Please contact Robert Bedford if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.