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After threatening to ‘shoot’ a colleague, Timpson employee unfairly dismissed

An employment tribunal has found that a Timpson employee was unfairly dismissed for threatening to ‘shoot’ a colleague, because of the way the company handled the disciplinary process.

The company’s national locksmith manager, Mr Pemberton made comments over the telephone in an informal conversation during November 2018. The comments were made to a scheduling team leader who Mr Pemberton considered to be a friend.

During the telephone conversation the scheduling team leader asked if Mr Pemberton had heard the news about the dismissal of a locksmith in the central Scotland region. He suggested that the company might be able to cope with one less locksmith and not look for a replacement.

Mr Pemberton replied “I swear to God if you say that I want to f**king shoot you, not under any f**king circumstances say that in passing to anybody because you’d be my own worst enemy doing that. Honestly, we need four in the central belt.”

The following day the scheduling team leader made a formal complaint to a company director about Mr Pemberton and his conduct over the telephone. The scheduling team leader admitted that he had felt threatened by Mr Pemberton’s tone and was concerned that if he did not report the matter it would become difficult to work together.

The scheduling team leader also indicated that he was not that upset by the comments made by Mr Pemberton.

Later that week Mr Pemberton was suspended, pending an investigation on the grounds of the use of threatening and abusive language to a colleague.

A recording of the conversation was played during the investigation and Mr Pemberton apologised for his remarks. He stated that he had never meant any malice by them. Mr Pemberton also stated that he felt comfortable enough with the colleague to talk freely with him. Mr Pemberton refused to accept that he meant to threaten him.

Later that month a disciplinary meeting was held, and Mr Pemberton was dismissed for gross misconduct. He received a letter telling him that it was unacceptable to threaten a colleague. It was particularly unacceptable because he could have an influence over the colleague’s career and working environment.

At the hearing by the Manchester employment tribunal, the judge ruled that the company decision to dismiss Mr Pemberton had been unreasonable.

Timpson denied that the decision to dismiss Mr Pemberton was unfair. They stated that should there have been deficiencies in the process, the outcome would have been the same and Mr Pemberton would still have been dismissed.

Judge Jonathan Holbrook stated that he did not think that there were any reasonable grounds for believing that Mr Pemberton was not regretting the conversation. He had apologised and expressed his regret on more than one occasion. He also wanted to apologise personally to the scheduling team leader.

The Judge stated that he did not think that Timpson’s had reasonable grounds to believe the conversation had a serious impact on the team leader. If anything, it was shown that neither of the investigating managers queried the incident in great detail.

A more thorough investigation would have shown that the team leader had not felt threatened or scared by the conversation.

The tribunal ruled that Timpson’s should have considered the fact that the comments were made during an informal telephone conversation, Mr Pemberton had since expressed his remorse, and considering his clean record and long service it was unlikely to happen again.

Judge Holbrook ruled that any award to Mr Pemberton should be reduced by 25% to show the level at which he had contributed to his dismissal. The amount has not yet been awarded.

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