An employment tribunal judge has awarded a former Scottish Borders Council employee £56,581 after finding that he had been unfairly dismissed.
The judge went on to say that in the case of UNISON member Anthony Carson, SBC had run “one of the most woefully inadequate investigations of misconduct I have ever come across,” adding that “the standard of the investigation in this case was utterly shameful” and “biased”.
The judge said he found the council officers dealing with the case to be “unreliable and failed to answer questions openly and honestly”.
Mr Carson, a regulatory services manager in environmental health services at SBC since 2011, claimed unfair dismissal after being dismissed in December 2016.
He had been told that there had been a number of allegations made about his management style and he agreed to attend meetings to discuss these issues. However, he was suspended before the meetings took place and was dismissed without ever being made aware of what the allegations were.
Janet Stewart, UNISON regional organiser who represented Anthony said: “I am an experienced union official and I have never seen such a seriously damning verdict.
“This is a serious case. Scottish Borders Council conduct disciplinary procedures in a superficial manner. This must change.
“They do not give their employees the respect of a proper robust process. This case reminds them they are not above the law and it must act as a wake up call.”
Mr Carson said: ”This has been very stressful. I am pleased that the tribunal agreed with me but it’s difficult to take pleasure from this decision as I lost my job, it has ruined my career, and they put me through a lot of stress.”
Tracey Logan, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council, said: “Notwithstanding the decision of the employment judge, we are content that the decision to dismiss Mr Carson was the correct one for our organisation. This decision was also upheld by the Appeals Committee.
“While acknowledging that there are lessons to be learned from the judgement, we believe there are a number of factual inaccuracies within the judgement and the language used is, in many parts, unnecessarily personal and emotive. We are taking advice on the possibility of an appeal and will provide feedback to the Employment Tribunal service on the language used in the judgement.
“As an employer of over 5,500 employees, it is unfortunately inevitable that there will be instances when investigation and disciplinary action is required into allegations raised by staff concerning bullying and intimidation by management. The council has a duty of care to thoroughly investigate such allegations and we have a zero tolerance approach to bullying behaviours.
“We pride ourselves on dealing with these matters fairly and thoroughly, using rigorous procedures agreed with the recognised Trades Unions. We believe we followed agreed process in this case.
“In the last six years, eighteen employment tribunal claims have been brought against the council, including that of Mr Carson. Of the other claims, one was settled, five were withdrawn by the claimant before a hearing and eleven resulted in judgements in the council’s favour.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing to see the comments from Unison, as clearly the council’s record demonstrates that there is no fundamental flaw in the process that the council has in place. However, lessons can always be learnt, and we will look at the judgement in full and reflect on where any improvements to the process can be made.
“I have already agreed to meet Unison and hope that we can go forward in a constructive manner.”