Postman Fired for Urinating in lay-by wins Unfair Dismissal Claim 

This week’s case made headlines like the one above in many national newspapers. Mr Rawal was hired as a postman for Royal Mail. One afternoon, he became so desperate for the toilet that he was left with no option but to relieve himself in a lay-by.

Some days later, Royal Mail received a complaint from a by-stander to the effect that whilst on her way to Morrisons, she witnessed a Royal Mail man urinating on the side of the road. She states that the incident left her feeling “completely shocked” and that “it was really upsetting seeing someone doing that on the street, especially someone from a big, famous and professional company such as Royal Mail”

Upon investigation, the claimant was brought into a disciplinary meeting, which he recorded. At one point during this meeting, he left the room. During this period, the managers conducting the meeting could be heard discussing his employment.

The tribunal noted that discussion did not so much centre on the act of urination, but rather on Mr. Rawal’s relationship with his direct line manager, Mr. Maddy. The two had a fractured relationship, which the tribunal concluded stemmed from a disagreement in relation to health & safety and politics. Interestingly, Mr. Rawal was also a health & safety representative for the CWU union.

The Law

Section 152(2) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 provides that for the purpose of Part X of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the dismissal of an employee shall be regarded as unfair if the reason for it (or, if more than one, the principal reason) was that the employee had taken part, or proposed to take part, in the activities of an independent trade union at the appropriate time.

Considering the evidence, the tribunal concluded that “Mr Maddy’s poor relationship with the claimant was a reason for the termination of the claimant’s employment. The principal reason for that poor relationship was the claimant’s trade union activities. We conclude that the claimant’s trade union activities were a reason for the claimant’s dismissal.”

Having decided that Mr. Rawal’s trade union activities were a reason for his dismissal, the tribunal had to determine whether they were the principal reason for his dismissal. They admitted that the act of public urination was what induced the disciplinary meeting but concluded that “the set of beliefs held by Ms Dunkley which caused her to dismiss the claimant related predominately to his poor relationship with Mr Maddy and therefore to the claimant’s trade union activities.” In consequence, the tribunal found that Mr. Rawal had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him compensation.

Testament from several other post officers aided the tribunal’s decision. One is quoted to have said “There is not a post person alive, man or woman, who had not been caught short and had to urinate in public.” The tribunal also heard that several other post officers had been caught ‘red-handed’ in public and still had not been fired. From this, the tribunal logically deduced that something more was at play – Mr. Rawal’s relationship with Mr. Maddy.

Takeaway Point

Don’t take into account irrelevant considerations when making the decision to dismiss. If you are dismissing an employee for alleged gross misconduct, ensure that the misconduct is the true reason for dismissal.

A tribunal is more than likely to sniff out any duplicitous motivations, and thus find the dismissal unfair. Moreover, be specifically cautious where trade union activities are involved. Any association with a regulated trade union may not be levied against an employee.

News Flash

It has come to our attention after reading an article in the Metro this week that another amazon delivery driver has been relieved (pardon the pun) of his position after being caught on CCTV defecating outside a costumer’s house. It is not known at the time of writing whether the former employee intends submitting a claim…watch this space!!