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Tube worker awarded £14k due to dismissal delays

Because of his employer’s failure to carry out a timely and reasonable disciplinary investigation, a London Underground employee sacked for sexual harassment has been awarded £14,500.

A tribunal upheld Mr Adenusi’s claim for unfair dismissal even though London Underground had decided to dismiss him. The tribunal found that London Underground had been reasonable when dismissing Mr Adenusi with no alternative option.

Mr Adenusi, a customer services manager, was fired for gross misconduct. This took place after allegations were made of his inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to a customer services assistant called ‘C1’. The assistant had recently been transferred to Tottenham Court Road Station.

A return-to-work-interview (RTWI) was carried out on 16th April 2017 when it was alleged that Mr Adenusi had remarked to C1 that it was important that she recovered from her gynaecological surgery because she would ‘need to please her future husband.’

Additionally, Mr Adenusi commented that he could tell from her body shape that C1 looked like she kept herself fit. He further added that when he first met her he had thought ‘wow’ and needed to control his thoughts.

C1 stated that for three months after the RTWI Mr Adenusi, who had been working on the Tube since 1994, continued to make inappropriate remarks to her about her body.

The tribunal commented that London Underground’s RTWI was more than many employers would adopt, considering the short absence that C1 had taken, namely just one week.

Although Mr Adenusi had been trained in RTWIs, he did not have an opinion as to whether it was correct or appropriate for male managers to conduct these interviews with female staff, particularly when female-specific medical conditions were the issue.

C1 made a formal complaint against Mr Adenusi, which culminated in a meting on 4th August where the allegations against him were made.

Area manager Tony Young wrote to Adenusi on 16th August advising him that his suspension was a ‘precautionary measure’ as no pre-judgement had been made.

Adenusi remained on suspension for 16 months on full pay. His employment was finally terminated on 5th December 2018, the reason being gross misconduct.

An appeal was immediately filed by Adenusi and this took place on 17th January 2019. The decision to reject the appeal and uphold the dismissal only took place on 9th April 2019.

It is up to the employer to show any reasons for dismissal. This is under guidance from the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 98.

In making his decision Judge Nicolle said that although London Underground had given a reason for dismissing Mr Adenusi, the grounds had not been reasonable.

The Acas Code of Disciplinary and Grievance states that any investigations of disciplinary actions should be carried out without reasonable delay.

Where suspension with pay is deemed necessary the period should be as brief as possible. All meetings should be held with no reasonable delay while still allowing the employee a reasonable amount of time to prepare their own case.

Judge Nicolle found the significant time delay in the investigation wholly unreasonable, particularly the fact that it took almost 16 months to finalise. He did not find that the length itself was good enough reason for an unfair dismissal.

The judge ruled that:

1. The claimant should have had the opportunity to challenge the evidence given by C1.

2. All lines of enquiry were not followed with relation to key witnesses.

3. London Underground did not question Mr Adenusi about his working relationship with C1.

The judge stated that even considering the insufficient grounds, it is likely that the outcome would have been the same and a decision to dismiss the claimant would have been agreed on.

However, if the claimant had been given the chance to challenge C1’s evidence he may have been given the benefit of the doubt.

Mr Adenusi was awarded £14,500 at a remedy hearing at the Central London tribunal, the decision being based on his length of service.

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