Sky Subscriber Services were ordered to pay Mr Steven Ritchie almost £40,000 in compensation after he was dismissed in October 2013 on allegations that he was racist.
Mr Ritchie, of Dunfermline, was sacked from his customer support role at the Sky Subscriber Services call centre in Dunfermline after he told the daughter of a Vietnamese customer that he would have expected her father, as the account holder, to have learned to speak enough English to enable him to supply a security password over the telephone. The customer then emailed the CEO of Sky Subscriber Services, Mr Jeremy Darroch, to complain that Mr Ritchie.
After the complaint was made Mr Ritchie was suspended and investigated. He was then dismissed for gross misconduct.
After being dismissed Mr Ritchie made a claim for unfair dismissal to the Dundee Employment Tribunal, alleging that the procedure used to dismiss him and the decision to dismiss him were unfair and unreasonable.
Mr Ritchie’s claim came to the Dundee Employment Tribunal earlier this year, with Mr Ritchie giving evidence at the Tribunal that he believed that the dismissal process was a “sham”. The Employment Tribunal found in favour of Mr Ritchie in his claim for unfair dismissal, holding that Sky had failed to consider other options than dismissal and that no reasonable employer would have dismissed Mr Ritchie on the basis of the allegations. The Employment Tribunal did, however, find that the processes that Sky Subscriber Services had used in dismissing Mr Ritchie were reasonable, and reduced the compensation awarded to Mr Ritchie for this reason.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Ritchie a substantial amount in compensation, although this was reduced to £37,943.
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must not make ‘knee-jerk’ decisions to dismiss employees but must undertake a fair investigation and make a decision to dismiss (if this is in fact appropriate) based upon the facts that the investigation have determined. It is also crucial that the decision to dismiss be proportionate to the allegation – if an overly-harsh sanction is imposed then this could lead to an Employment Tribunal claim.
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