Limited investigation sufficient where misconduct was admitted
While working as head of a team at a client’s factory, Mr Jefferson had made a racist comment (repeating a Lenny Henry joke about running over black people at zebra crossings). Complaints were made. MR Jefferson fully admitted to making the remarks and eventually he was dismissed. An employment tribunal found his dismissal unfair.
The tribunal accepted that remarks of an offensive nature and unjustified slurs on the company were unacceptable conduct. However, investigations by the employer were inadequate in that various people were not interviewed, and in all the circumstances, including that the comments were intended as flippant, dismissal was outside the range of reasonable responses.
The EAT concluded that the tribunal had been wrong to consider that a reasonable employer could not base its conclusions on the evidence it had, without further investigation and interviews. Mr Jefferson had admitted all along that he had made the comments so further investigation was not needed and there had been sufficient investigation for the employer to form a belief as to gross misconduct. While investigations should be thorough, the overriding principle is that they should be proportionate to the circumstances of the case. Millbrook Proving Ground Ltd v Jefferson UKEAT/0014/08