Rooney v Dundee City Council: the relevance of previous warnings in unfair dismissal claims

Rooney v Dundee City Council: the relevance of previous warnings in unfair dismissal claims

Head of Employment, Ted Flanagan, discusses the case of Rooney v Dundee City Council and what it means for employers.

In August 2010, the claimant in this case received a final written warning which was to stay on her record for 15 months. She appealed against this warning but although two dates for the appeal were set, they didn’t go ahead for various reasons and no appeal was ever heard. A further incident took place just before the 15 months was up. A disciplinary hearing was heard after which she was dismissed. The person conducting the hearing was aware of the previous final written warning and that the appeal had not been determined. She issued a claim for unfair dismissal.

The EAT upheld the Employment Tribunal’s finding that the dismissal was fair. It was found that there was no reason for the Tribunal to hear evidence on the reason for the imposition of the first final warning as there was nothing to indicate that it was manifestly inappropriate or in any way invalid. The Tribunal also concluded that the dismissal was fair notwithstanding the fact that there was an appeal outstanding. It concluded that the decision to dismiss without hearing the appeal was a reasonable one to make.

What this means for you

This is a positive case for employers. It suggests that a Tribunal shouldn’t examine the appropriateness of previous warnings unless there’s evidence to suggest the warning was given in a way that was ‘manifestly inappropriate’. But we would recommend that, wherever possible, the whole disciplinary procedure should be exhausted internally.

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