Case Review: Employee who shouted and swore at colleague was unfairly dismissed

In the recent case of Townsend v Gillette UK Ltd, the employment tribunal had to weigh up whether an employee had been fairly dismissed for engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour towards a colleague.

Mr Townsend had a meeting with his line manager in Janaury 2012 to discuss a number of issues. His manager, Miss Janska, alleged that Mr Townsend shouted at her and repeatedly put his finger up to her face in a “threatening and intimidating” manner, and a witness claimed that Mr Townsend swore at Miss Janska.

Mr Townsend claimed that his manager was in a bad mood and had acted abruptly. He said he had been pointing at a board and not at Miss Janska, and denied swearing.

Following a disciplinary hearing, Mr Townsend was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The employment tribunal rejected Mr Townsend’s claim for unfair dismissal. His employer was entitled to dismiss him for gross misconduct and the decision fell within the range of reasonable responses.

The tribunal found that the employer had conducted a full and comprehensive investigation and appeal; had conducted a fair disciplinary hearing; there was reasonable grounds for believing the allegations against Mr Townsend; and there was no reason for the witness to make up the testimony. Finally, despite the fact that Mr Townsend had worked for Gillette for 14 years with an unblemished record, dismissal was a reasonable option available to the employer given the threatening behaviour and Gillette’s pride on a safe working environment.