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Railwayman wins unfair dismissal claim after being sacked for failing to provide urine sample

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Mr Lewis Smith v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd Mr Smith suffered from ‘shy bladder syndrome’ which left him too nervous to go to the loo when Network Rail called him in for a random check. He told a tribunal that he said he wasn’t trying to dodge it and even offered to carry out a blood test – but still he was fired for refusing to take part.

The Tribunal found that the decision to dismiss Mr Smith for gross misconduct, made after a brief disciplinary hearing, was a flawed and ill-considered decision. It was based on an unsustainable finding that Mr Smith had refused to provide a urine sample when there was no evidence of such culpable and blameworthy conduct. Mr Smith had been unable to provide a urine sample because of an undiagnosed medical condition.

Mr Smith, who previously had trouble going to the loo at social occasions, was later diagnosed with the disorder ‘paruresis’ by his GP. The condition prevents people from peeing while under pressure or when other people around and can be experienced by men flanked by other men at urinals.

Mr Smith, who worked for Network Rail for nine years and managed a team of 12 in a safety critical role, successfully sued his former employer for unfair dismissal. But now, after Network Rail failed to follow the tribunal’s order to reinstate Mr Smith, claiming he found a ‘loophole’ to escape drug testing, the firm has been ordered to pay him almost £90,000.

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