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When a rubbish case leads to an unfair dismissal

Published 14 August 2017

Being unfairly accused of wrongdoing by your employer is bad enough…being accused of stealing from company rubbish is even worse.

Dynamic mechanic Jimmy used to rummage through the scrap bin outside the Midlands car dealership where he works for discarded parts he could salvage and use. The scrap collection bin was kept outside the premises.

When the collector called to pick up the items Jimmy would enquire if he could take certain parts he wanted or needed. He was always given permission to do so.
Jimmy used the parts to carry out repairs for friends and family, and anything he could not use he would store in his garage at home. If he eventually found out it was not needed, he would sell it online many months later.
There was no secret to what Jimmy was doing as he was open about it. Colleagues and an ex manger jokingly nicknamed him the bin man.
When a new manager started the bins were moved inside of the dealership and Jimmy was told that he could no longer take scrap parts.
Employers should have clear guidelines in place that have been communicated to all staff especially when there is likelihood that they may remove discarded stock. Workers should also be made aware whenever a new policy is introduced or an existing one changed or updated.
When Jimmy was preparing to move house eight months later he discovered some scrap parts he had forgotten about, never used and had no use for, in his garage.
Jimmy put them online for sale and received a number of queries from what he believed was a potential buyer. He was asked about the items for sale, where they came from and if he worked in the motor trade. Jimmy responded to say he works in the motor trade and the items were old parts he found in his garage at home.
Four weeks later Jimmy eventually sold a part to the buyer for £45. During the time between the enquiry from the buyer and the sale, the company introduced a formal policy banning staff from taking scrap parts.
It was another two months before Jimmy was summoned to his manager's office and suspended from work. No explanation was given for the reason why.
The company disciplinary policy made it clear that it will hold an investigation meeting before instigating disciplinary action.
Jimmy was not invited to attend an investigation meeting. He was notified that he was required to attend a disciplinary hearing.
The letter did not explain the allegations or provide any evidence to be considered and it also did not notify Jimmy of his right to be accompanied at the disciplinary hearing.
At the hearing the exchanges between Jimmy and the buyer, who turned out to be his manager, were provided to him for the first time along with a detailed history of the items he had previously sold online. The same manager also chaired the disciplinary hearing.
Jimmy was accused of stealing the part he unwittingly sold to his manager, after the introduction of the new policy and lying about where it came from.


He explained it was an old item he had been allowed to take, which he had forgotten about. Despite protesting he's innocence Jimmy was sacked on the spot for repeated acts of theft and lying.
Jimmy contacted Castle Associates for help with a disciplinary appeal and he was accompanied by our representative at the disciplinary appeal hearing.

Our representative was able to highlight major flaws in the process including breaches of the ACAS Code and the company’s own disciplinary policy.

Key to the case was the fact Jimmy had been given permission to take scrap parts, he did not take anything when the new policy was introduced and the item he sold was an old scrap part - and one the company had stopped using before the introduction of the new policy.

In the event of a successful appeal Jimmy’s desired outcome was to be reinstated. He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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