In the recent case of Philips Electronics UK Limited T/A Philips Lighting v Mr D Miller the EAT upheld the ET’s decision that Mr Miller’s dismissal was unfair.
Mr Miller was a machine operative who had been involved in an altercation with his employer and admitted to having been verbally abusive. Mr Miller was subsequently accused of deliberately destroying a number of good products. He was disciplined for both matters and consequently dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct.
Mr Miller claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed. It came to light that Mr Adrain who chaired the disciplinary meeting had agreed that the verbal abuse alone was insufficient to amount to gross misconduct, whereas Mr Waugh, who chaired the appeal meeting, concluded that the two incidents separately amounted to gross misconduct.
The EAT held that Mr Miller should not have been disciplined for destroying the good products as his employer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Miller had deliberately damaged them. Therefore Mr Miller should only have been disciplined for the abuse which, by Mr Adrain’s own admission, was insufficient to amount to gross misconduct by itself. The EAT decided not to take into account Mr Waugh’s reasoning as this would not have been given had Mr Miller not been dismissed.
Therefore, it was held that the action for which the employer was entitled to dscipline Mr Miller, via Mr Adrain, was not a gross misconduct issue and Mr Miller had been unfairly dismissed.