Employee wins £30,000 in Employment Tribunal after being unfairly dismissed

MoJA former employee of a Scottish oil company has won his claim for unfair dismissal after he was fired for gross misconduct last year.

Mr David Williamson, who had worked for 25 years for Scotoil Group, was fired from his job in 2013 after it was alleged by the company that he had been racially harassing agency staff at the firm.

Mr Williamson, who his from Aberdeen, complained along with other workers that a Polish contract worker they were working with couldn’t follow English safety instructions for high-pressure cleaning equipment. A complaint was subsequently made by this employee that he was being harassed by Mr Williamson and other workers and Mr Williamson was subsequently disciplined, with this disciplinary resulting in Mr Williamson being dismissed for racially motivated bullying and harassment.

The former Scotoil employee subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal against the company, with his claim coming to the Employment Tribunal earlier this year. Mr Williamson, giving evidence in his favour, claimed that he had only submitted his concerns regarding the safety of other employees and that his comments were not supposed to be construed as racially offensive or constituting harassment.

The Employment Tribunal, chaired by Employment Judge Ian McFatridge, ruled in Mr Williamson’s favour in the claim, holding that the firm had “no reasonable grounds” to believe that Mr Williamson’s conduct was intended to harass or discriminate against the Polish employee and, further, that the firm had failed to distinguish between “legitimate comment” and alleged “racially-motivated bullying and harassment”. Judge McFatridge also commented that Mr Williamson had been treated in a different fashion to other employees.

Mr Williamson was awarded £30,000 in lost earnings for his claim for unfair dismissal.

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “Employers must undertake a fair investigation when disciplining employees, with that investigation focussing on specific allegations, fact-finding on those allegations, and making a reasonable decision based upon those facts. Employers must also treat employees in a fair manner and must not ‘discriminate’ by, for example, investigating one employee but not investigating others. If such conduct occurs then it is likely that a dismissed employee would succeed with a claim for unfair dismissal.”