Employee Denied Companion at Disciplinary Hearing Awarded Only £2
In the recent case of Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, the Employment Tribunal found that the employer, Abellio, had breached the employee’s right to be accompanied by a companion of his choice at a disciplinary appeal hearing but in an unprecedented twist, only awarded the Claimant compensation of £2.
Abellio began the disciplinary process against Mr Gnahoua when he was caught looking at an iPad while the bus he was driving was in motion. Following the decision to dismiss him for the act of gross misconduct, Mr Gnahoua appealed and informed Abellio that he wished to be accompanied to the appeal hearing by two brothers who had formed the PTSC (‘Public Transport Service Corporation’) union. The employer refused on the grounds that the two brothers had already been banned from representing staff at hearings due to their dishonesty and threatening behaviour.
Mr Gnahoua attended the internal disciplinary appeal hearing with no representation and the decision to dismiss him from his employment was upheld by Abellio.
The Employment Tribunal accepted that Abellio had technically breached Mr Gnahoua’s right to be accompanied to the hearing by a work colleague or a trade union representative companion. However, they decided to award Mr Gnahoua just £2 in consideration of the breach, on the basis that Abellio had followed the ACAS Code of Practice and had had strong grounds to be unhappy with the choice of companion to the appeal hearing and Mr Gnahoua had not suffered any loss or detriment because of the breach.
The case serves as a useful reminder of the need for employer’s to follow the correct disciplinary process and if there are any departures from the established procedure to ensure that there are sufficiently strong reasons for doing so and that the employee is not subjected to a detriment as a result.