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In the case of Mr R Minhas v Sky Retail Stores Ltd 2415040/2019 the Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed due to the employer carrying out a flawed investigation and the sanction being outside the band of reasonable responses

The facts in Mr R Minhas v Sky Retail Stores Ltd

Mr Minhas was employed as a Sky Retails Sales Adviser from 15 May 2017 to his dismissal on 4 October 2019. He was dismissed for gross misconduct for comments made to another employee of Sky Retail Stores Ltd.

His allegations in outline were that:

  • That the investigation process was unfair and flawed;
  • That penalty of dismissal was too severe;
  • The comments attributed to him were not his exact words or views; and
  • That he had been discriminated on religious grounds (later withdrawn)

On 6 June 2019,  Mr Minhas made a comment during a to Ms Klemetti, another Sky employee on the Sky stand in a shopping mall in Blackburn where they were both there to drum up business for Sky. They were both wearing their uniforms.  Ms Klemetti later recalled she was unsure of the exact words used, but the comments related to two young girls around 15 or 16 were to the effect: –

“Girls in general who wear skirts like that and then get raped it’s their own fault”.

Ms Klemetti was unhappy about Mr Minhas’ comments and she challenged these views and an argument ensued. Another employee of Sky, Mr Farhan Qudeer, who was not at work but passing by and did not hear the actual argument (only a description after the argument of what they had been arguing about) decided to make a complaint to Mr Minhas’ line manager, Mr Brian Waite, based on his version of what had been said. Mr Waite then passed this on to more senior managers.

On 25 June 2019 (nearly 3 weeks after the incident) Ms Klemetti was interviewed by a female manager, Razwana Nahid. Ms Klemetti, at the time, did not think the matter was serious enough to be escalated to a disciplinary.

On  31 July 2019 Mr Mohammed Altaf was assigned to investigate the incident and met with the Mr Minhas, supposedly informally, to discuss with him his behaviour at work in general terms.

On 5 September 2019 Mr Minhas had his first meeting with Mr Armstrong, who had been put in charge of the investigation into Ms Klemetti’s complaint. Mr Armstrong told Mr Minhas he needed to make more enquiries into the incident, so the meeting was adjourned and rearranged for 26 September 2019 (which itself was subsequently rearranged).

On 4 October 2019 the next meeting took place. At this meeting Mr Minhas made it clear to Mr Armstrong that his comments on 6 June 2019 were part of a private conversation with Ms Klemetti and that he had not imposed his views on her; he did accept, however, that the conversation was heated. Later that day Mr Armstrong made the decision to dismiss Mr Minhas for gross misconduct, with Mr Minhas’ dismissal taking effect on 4 October 2019.

On 22 October 2019 Mr Minhas appealed against the dismissal, arguing that he had not been saying that he believed that the women should be raped but that “if this were Pakistan people would be looking and it is an open invitation to get raped”.  Mr Minhas’ appeal was dismissed by Ms Beard.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

Unfair dismissal

The Employment Tribunal upheld  Mr Minhas’ claim for unfair dismissal, holding that the investigation process had been flawed and the sanction outside of the band of reasonable responses.

The basis for the Employment Tribunal’s conclusion was as follows:

  • That Ms Klemetti had not made a complaint about Mr Minhas;
  • That the comments had not been directed at the girls themselves;
  • That the investigation process had been commenced too great a time after the incident itself; and
  • That the investigation process had concluded that Mr Minhas had used words that he had not in fact used

Compensation awarded

The Employment Tribunal concluded that it was not practicable to re-engage Mr Minhas, that any compensation must be uplifted by 25% due to breaches of the ACAS Coe of Conduct, and that any compensation must also be reduced by 33% to account for Mr Minhas’ contributory fault (i.e. that he had in part some blame for the dismissal).

The value of compensation to be awarded to Mr Minhas will be determined at a later date.

Read more about the law on unfair dismissal here

Our lawyer’s comments

Stephen Norton, a legal adviser at Redmans, commented on the case: “In this case the Employment Tribunal accepted that Mr Minhas had been guilty of some misconduct but that the level of response (i.e. dismissal) was too severe to be fair. A number of obvious flaws were that Ms Klemetti did not in fact make any complaint, no comments had been directed at the girls themselves, and the investigation process began too late after the incident and contained inaccurate statements of the actual words used by Mr Minhas.”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in the case of Mr R Minhas v Sky Retail Stores Ltd 2415040/2019 can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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