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HGV driver wins unfair dismissal claim after fight with colleague

In November 2022 the London South Tribunal heard the unfair dismissal claim of A Milea. Mr Milea had been dismissed without notice in February 2022 following a fight with a co-worker.

Reportedly, on January 17th 2022 Milea was driving with his co-worker, AT, from Enfield to Gatwick when AT became verbally abusive to Milea before spitting in his face, causing Milea to pull over onto the hard shoulder.

They continued their journey and on arrival at Gatwick the altercation became physical after Milea attempted to force AT out of the van. AT responded by placing Milea in a headlock and punching him. Police were called and AT was taken into custody, though no further action was taken.

Milea was suspended pending investigation on January 18th 2022, appearing at a disciplinary hearing on February 11th, where he was summarily dismissed. The dismissal letter confirmed Milea had been dismissed for gross misconduct after he violated the company’s health & safety and mobile phone device safety polices. The hearing chair also stated that she believed both parties had made physical contact, in breach of the company’s disciplinary and grievance policies, citing Milea’s entry into AT’s personal space as the cause of the escalation to a violent altercation.

Milea’s appeal against the decision was unsuccessful.

However, the Tribunal ruled that Milea had been unfairly dismissed because DHL failed to demonstrate that Milea was culpable in the breach of the disciplinary and grievance procedures and the hearing Chair had failed to consider whether summary dismissal was an appropriate sanction to impose or if a lesser sanction would have sufficed. There was also an issue of procedure as Milea had not been informed precisely what allegations/criticisms he must address in the appeal hearing.

This finding demonstrates the absolute need for employers to genuinely believe an employee is guilty of misconduct and that such a belief is based on reasonable grounds following a reasonable investigation and a fair process having been completed. Dismissal must also be a reasonable outcome as it is not always the most appropriate response to issues of conduct, even perceived gross misconduct. All the facts of the case and available evidence should be carefully considered and assessed against the required dismissal tests before deciding on the sanction.

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