Tribunal watch: Dismissals for mobile phone use while driving

Two contrasting employment tribunal claims for unfair dismissal, one upheld and one rejected, have considered the fairness of dismissals for mobile phone use while driving. Stephen Simpson rounds up employment tribunal decisions reported in the past week.

Bus driver dismissed for breach of policy on mobile phone use while driving
In Ruparell v East London Bus & Coach Co Ltd, an employment tribunal held that the dismissal of a bus driver who was seen holding his mobile phone while exiting a bus stand, in breach of the employer’s very strict and clearly communicated mobile phone rules, was fair.

A bus driver was parked on a stand at the end of his route, with the engine switched off and no passengers aboard.

He took out his mobile phone to set the alarm, and fell asleep thinking the alarm was set. He woke up abruptly only to realise that he had missed his scheduled departure time because the alarm did not go off.

CCTV footage showed the claimant starting his engine and moving off with his mobile phone in his hand. While the bus was moving, he took both hands off the steering wheel to put the phone into his pocket, then put one hand back on the wheel to secure the phone with his other hand.

The employment tribunal upheld the bus company’s decision to dismiss the claimant, who was already on a final disciplinary warning.

The employment tribunal took into account the employer’s strict and clearly communicated ban on mobile phone use, which included a prohibition on the “visible presence” of mobile phones in the cab area. Read full case report…

Dismissal of loyal employee spotted on mobile phone while driving into workplace
Meanwhile, in Whitehead v FirstGroup Holdings Ltd, an employment tribunal held that the dismissal of a long-serving employee who was reported for using his mobile phone while driving in his own car into a workplace car park was unfair.

The claimant had worked for a bus company for 36 years as an accountant, joining at 17 and working his way up to a management position. He had an unblemished record and was regarded as a “competent, conscientious and law-abiding employee”.

A colleague reported witnessing the claimant driving into the workplace car park while using his mobile phone. He was driving his own car at the time. He was dismissed following an investigation.

The employment tribunal upheld the unfair dismissal claim. The tribunal said that it was by no means clear that the employer’s policy on mobile phone use while driving applied while entering the workplace in a private car.

The employment tribunal was critical of the employer for not having taken account the mitigating circumstances, including the claimant’s long and impeccable service, and the stress that he had been under in his work and private life. Read full case report…

Other tribunal decisions in the headlines

£16,000 for Jewish woman over job rejection because she cannot work Saturdays
A Jewish woman has won £16,000 damages from a travel firm after it rejected her job application because her religion prevents her from working Saturdays, says the Manchester Evening News.

Payout for Scotland Yard sergeant in sex-bias case
A former Scotland Yard sergeant who claimed she was left suicidal after being “bullied” out of her dream career by Essex police is to receive a payout of thousands of pounds, reports the Evening Standard.

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