Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher is in hot water, after being caught on video spitting towards a 14 year old girl in a car from his own vehicle after Saturday’s Liverpool v Manchester United match. Contributor David Southall is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group.
Sky has suspended him, and a spokesperson has publicly reprimanded Carragher for his actions. Here’s a look at how employers should handle such incidents that occur outside of the workplace. Given the confluence of tabloid friendly elements in this story and subsequent media coverage, it would have been very surprising to have had no reaction from Sky.
Although we cannot be absolutely clear as to Jamie Carragher’s employment status, this incident is a timely reminder that employers need to follow procedures even when they are dealing with the most extreme behaviour by employees. This also applies where an employee is seen to have carried out an act of misconduct outside of work hours. The potential for disciplinary action remains whenever an employee has brought their employer into disrepute; this usually happens if they are identified as being an employee of a particular organisation. As a consequence and following a fair procedure, an employee could face dismissal.
Jamie Carragher has expressed his regret via social media and publicly apologised for his actions, however, had his employer done nothing then they would have been setting a serious precedent. Any subsequent similar actions by employees could be judged against this event and the employer might be constrained in future in the range of penalties they could apply.
While we can certainly take this as an example of conduct that any employer should find abhorrent, there is still no place for instant reactions. There needs to be a period of reflection between the event happening and any penalty being issued. Firstly a judgement needs to be made as to whether suspension is necessary whilst continuing investigations. Courts have recently frowned on employers who are too keen to suspend employees. Companies should take HR advice as to whether or not suspension is suitable in any particular instance.
A full investigation can then take place and the employee can be fully interviewed in order to obtain their version of the incident. The employer will then know whether the employee admits the action(s) and whether or not there are any mitigating factors. This information will then allow them to make a decision as to whether to proceed with disciplinary action. What this incident has shown is that, even when faced with the most unpleasant behaviour out of work hours, employers should ensure that they always follow a clear and robust procedure.