John Linwood, the former chief technology officer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (commonly referred to as the “BBC”), has won his claim for unfair dismissal in the Central London Employment Tribunal after the organisation failed to carry out a fair procedure in dismissing him after he was blamed for the failure of the Digital Media Initiative.
The Digital Media Initiative was an attempt by the BBC to create an integrated digital production and archiving system. The implementation of this system was started before Mr Linwood joined the BBC and ended up costing the organisation a net figure of £98.4 million before it was scrapped in May 2013.
After the DMI was scrapped, Mr Linwood was blamed for its failure and subjected to a disciplinary process on allegations of gross misconduct after he refused to resign over the scrapping of the system. He was then summarily dismissed after a disciplinary process and brought claims for wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal, dismissal due to protected disclosures and detriment due to protected disclosures against the BBC.
The claims came to a hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal earlier this year. The Employment Tribunal panel saw evidence that senior management figures at the BBC had sent emails which had suggested that the outcome of Mr Linwood’s disciplinary hearing had been pre-judged and that Mr Linwood had only been given a number of days to review 66,000 documents that had been sent to him by the BBC, as well as having the date of his disciplinary hearing brought forward when he informed the organisation that he was unable to attend a hearing date that had been scheduled.
The Employment Tribunal found in Mr Linwood’s favour in his claim for unfair dismissal, holding that the investigation was flawed and that the result of the disciplinary proceedings was pre-determined. The Employment Tribunal described the disciplinary procedures utilised by the BBC in Mr Linwood’s case as “profoundly substantively and procedurally flawed” and described the disciplinary investigation as “wholly inadequate”, “not the actions of a reasonable employer” and showing at times “apparently cavalier disregard for any of the accepted norms of a fairly disciplinary process.” However, the Tribunal found against Mr Linwood in his claims for detriment and/or dismissal due to the protected disclosures that he claimed had been made.
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “The disclosure of the emails between senior management at the BBC appears to have been the crucial element in proving Mr Linwood’s case – the BBC disclosed a huge ream of emails which showed that the management team had effectively pre-determined the outcome of Mr Linwood’s disciplinary hearing. Businesses should be careful to deal with disciplinary procedures in a fair and impartial manner to avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming Employment Tribunal proceedings.
A copy of the judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found at the following link: J Linwood v the British Broadcasting Corporation