Bus driver sacked for testing positive to cocaine wins Employment Tribunal claim

hmctsA former bus driver has won his legal claims after he was fired in 2012 on allegations that he was under the influence of drugs at work.

Alan Bailes won his claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal against First Bus in March 2015 after a complaint was made against him in 2012  regarding drugs use and he subsequently tested positive for cocaine.

An anonymous passenger made a complaint in 2012 that Mr Bailes was under the influence of marijuana whilst driving one of First Bus’ vehicles. An investigation was undertaken by First Bus and Mr Bailes underwent a drugs test which tested positive for cocaine. He was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of this. Mr Bailes subsequently paid for his own drugs test which found that he in fact had no drugs in his system and, on the strength of this test, requested that First Bus reinstate him. Mr Bailes also argued that he had counted the day’s takings just before he had taken the drugs test and that there could have been cocaine on the bank notes which influenced the positive outcome of the test. However, First Bus refused to do this and Mr Bailes chose to fight his dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.

Mr Bailes’ claim came to the Bristol Employment Tribunal earlier this year. In evidence, Mr Bailes stated that he had not washed his hands before the test and had eaten sandwiches before counting money, increasing the likelihood that the drug could be transferred to his mouth.

The Employment Tribunal ruled in Mr Bailes’ favour in his claim for unfair dismissal, holding that the investigation and disciplinary process that First Bus had followed had had “significant flaws”. Employment Judge Christensen stated: “The Respondent [First Bus] was aware that bank notes in general circulation are or could be contaminated by cocaine. This in turn means that it was incumbent on the respondent, as part of a reasonable investigatory process, to investigate the possibility that that reality may have some significance to the claimant’s positive cocaine drug test.”

The Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Bailes the maximum compensatory award that could be made (approx £70,000), as well as a sum in respect of his basic award.

Mr Bailes commented after the outcome of the claim: “I’m sure First Bus don’t like the fact that the little man took them on and beat them… But I was accused of doing something I knew I hadn’t done and I was determined to fight back.”

A spokesman for First Bus gave the following statement: “We believe that we followed due process throughout.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must make sure that they carry out a fair and thorough investigation, disciplinary, and appeal process and, further, that they should take all information into account when deciding whether to dismiss an employee. A failure to do so can result in – as it did in this case – an Employment Tribunal claim.”