Case Review: Woman wrongly accused of watching porn at work wins £20k unfair dismissal case

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Case Review: Woman wrongly accused of watching porn at work wins £20k unfair dismissal case

A married churchgoing mother, 50, has won a £20,000 unfair dismissal claim after she was wrongfully accused of watching pornographic material whilst at work.

Mrs Buckley had worked as a Finance Manager for a dental laboratory in Oldham, Lancashire for 10 years, but in 2010 was questioned on why she has been looking at hardcore porn sites during working hours.

She strenuously denied the accusation, but was fired for gross misconduct.

In November 2010 the company announced it would be making redundancies, and a week later Mrs Buckley apparently had “cross words” with her employer’s daughter, who had brought in as her line manager after she finished university.

The very next day she was asked to attend a disciplinary meeting at which it was claimed her computer terminal had been used to view hardcore pornography.

She denied all knowledge of this activity, and claimed that the computer could have been used by other employees or the site could have been a virus or “pop-up” site where cookies were saved to the PC.

She was suspended by her employers on 11 November, and on 17 December she was formally sacked. The dismissal letter stated that she had “accessed inappropriate and obscene websites” and  had spent a “wholly unacceptable” amount of time on personal websites.

Mrs Buckley appealed to the company but after being unsuccessful brought her claim to the Manchester Employment Tribunal.

The tribunal heard evidence that not only could the PC have been used by anyone else within the organisation, but that the sites could have been accessed by malware on the PC, where the PC is essentially “hijacked” by pop-up sites.

The company had no evidence that Mrs Buckley herself had accessed the pornographic sites.

The tribunal found that Mrs Buckley had been unfairly dismissed under section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.