Risk of Dismissal for Inappropriate Conduct Outside the Workplace
- Date: Monday 22nd July 2019
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The inappropriate conduct of an employee outside the workplace can potentially put the reputation of their employer at risk. But what action can an employer take when this situation occurs?
The recent case of a council worker whose comments about Zionism and the Nazis at a political rally which were caught on a BBC camera highlight the risk of deciding to dismiss.
Stan Keable was employed as a Public Protection and Safety Officer for Hammersmith and Fulham Council. At a political rally he was videoed saying that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis. At the time he was not wearing anything to identify his employer, but the clip was viewed on Twitter 79,000 times and he was identified by a number of users.
At a subsequent disciplinary hearing, it was found that his conduct was a breach of the Council’s code of conduct for employees and also brought the Council and its reputation into disrepute.
The chair of the disciplinary panel decided that Keable “would not heed a warning” and although the employee had 17 years of service and a clean disciplinary record he was dismissed (with notice).
At tribunal, the judge ruled that the Council had not concluded that Keable’s comments were discriminatory, racist, anti-Semitic or criminal. The judge ruled that the employee had not breached any of the Council’s policies as it had not made clear that employees expressing lawful political beliefs which could cause offence outside the workplace might result in a disciplinary sanction up to dismissal.
The judge ruled that there was no evidence the employee would not have heeded a warning and therefore the Council’s response was outside the “band of reasonable responses.”
Key Learning for Employers
While an employee’s actions outside the workplace may be offensive or inappropriate to some, if they do not directly impact on the reputation of the employer and are not associated with the employer, it is not necessarily a fair or reasonable response to dismiss an employee with 17 years’ service who also has no previous disciplinary warnings.
Source: Gavin Parrott