Bank worker who licked – then punched – colleague at party was fairly dismissed

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that a bank worker who licked the face of a colleague and punched him at a work party was fairly dismissed. Stephen Simpson rounds up recent employment decisions.

Key differences justified different sanctions for misconduct at work event
In MBNA v Jones, the EAT found a dismissal was fair despite another employee involved in the misconduct receiving a more lenient sanction.

At bank MBNA’s 20th anniversary celebration, Mr Jones had an argument with his colleague, Mr Battersby. Both had been drinking. Battersby kneed Jones in the leg, and Jones responded by licking Battersby’s face.

Later, Battersby noticed that Jones had his arm around Battersby’s sister, and kneed Jones again. Jones then punched him. Following the party, Battersby sent Jones text messages, including threats to “rip his fucking head off”.

MBNA took disciplinary action against both of them: Jones was dismissed for gross misconduct while Battersby received a final written warning.

The employer decided that Battersby’s actions at the work party did not justify dismissal because his texts had been sent after the work event and they were a direct response to being punched.

The employment tribunal held that the penalty for both should have been dismissal and it was unfair to treat Jones differently.

However, the EAT overturned the tribunal decision. The EAT found that there were differences in the employees’ circumstances that justified alternative sanctions.

The EAT said that, once it was established that it was reasonable to dismiss the claimant, leniency to another employee was “neither here nor there”.

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