Tribunal Rules in Favour of Dismissed Home Office Worker But Says Dismissal Was Justified

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Photo Credits: Amin Moshrefi via Unsplash

David Maynard was sacked from his job after making what were taken to be racist comments about Syrian refugees in a work-related WhatsApp group, but the Employment Tribunal subsequently ruled that the Home Office worker was dismissed unfairly.

Read on to find out more about the facts of the case and the Employment Tribunal’s ruling.

What Exactly Happened?

David Maynard worked as an asylum seeker escort for a company called Mitie which was itself a government immigration contractor. His job was to ensure that asylum seekers whose applications had been unsuccessful returned to their country of origin or an alternative country which would be safe for them.

Mr Maynard and a former colleague in the same role, John Lehan, were part of a WhatsApp group comprising 80 Mitie employees entitled “Escorts Meet and Greet”.

Home Office Worker Dismissed Over “Racist Joke”

The pertinent conversation within the WhatsApp group took place in October 2021 and related to an asylum seeker who had been self-harming. One employee sent a message stating “They can only stay if they swim all the way”, to which Mr Maynard responded, “What you mean from Syria?”. For his part, Mr Lehan forwarded a racist picture to the group chat and made certain derogatory remarks.

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Another member of the WhatsApp group subsequently reported the conversation to Mitie who promptly launched an investigation into the matter. There was a certain amount of public interest around the allegations at the time, prompting Phil Bentley, Mitie’s chief executive, to release a public statement condemning racist conduct.

In addition to racist conduct, Mr Maynard and Mr Lehan were accused of victimising the employee who had reported the WhatsApp conversation, allegedly calling him a “rat”, and of demonstrating insubordination with respect to their dislike of the company’s rules. The two Home Office workers were dismissed from the company by Mitie’s senior people transformation and change partner Caroline Morrissey in April 2022.

Mr Maynard and Mr Lehan both brought claims for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.

What Did the Employment Tribunal Say?

Home Office Worker Dismissal: Unreasonable and Unfair But Justified

Mr Maynard’s claim was recently heard by Judge Tom Perry in an Employment Tribunal located in south London. Mr Maynard explained that his response to the other employee’s WhatsApp message had not been intended as racist but was simply seeking to demonstrate the non-sensical nature of the previous message.

 Having considered the facts of the case, the tribunal decided that Ms Morrissey had misinterpreted Mr Maynard’s WhatsApp message in thinking that he was making a joke about Syrian refugees and attributed this, at least in part, to the press’s interpretation of the same. As such, it was held that the Home Office worker was dismissed unfairly.

When giving the reasons for his decision, Judge Perry stated that it was unreasonable to conclude that there was anything offensive in what Mr Maynard said.

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“The Consequence of Inappropriate Communication is More Serious For The Organisation”

Notwithstanding this, the tribunal was supportive of Mitie’s “hard-line” approach to the allegations against the two Home Office workers. Given the nature of their roles, Judge Perry stated that “it is hard to think of a more politically sensitive or high-profile area than the deportation of unsuccessful asylum seekers and migrants.”

Commenting that the case on which Mr Maynard and Mr Lehan had been working at the time was both high value and high profile, Judge Perry added that: “the consequences of inappropriate communication that could be associated with [Mitie] were undoubtedly potentially more serious for [Mitie] than they would be for many employers.”

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As such, it was held that the Home Office worker was dismissed unfairly by Mitie and Mr Maynard will be receiving compensation of an amount to be quantified at a later date. Mr Lehan’s claim for unfair dismissal was unsuccessful and his conduct was deemed to justify his dismissal.

The employment law specialists at Redmans Solicitors have considerable experience with unfair dismissal claims. If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, contact our friendly team today for a free initial consultation.

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