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Cadbury v South Thames College


Employment Appeal Tribunal

Appeal by a lecturer ('W') from an employment tribunal's decision that he had been fairly dismissed by the respondent college ('C'). W had been responsible for setting second-year degree examinations. In 1997 he set a 1988 A-level question for those examinations. The matter came to light in an article in "The Times", which quoted W as saying that 1980s A-level questions carried the appropriate level of difficulty. W was suspended on full pay. C disavowed allegations of plagiarism, breach of copyright or academic offences against W. In the event he was dismissed for gross misconduct. W was informed of the nature of the misconduct alleged in ambiguous terms. W submitted in his appeal that the tribunal had failed to identify whether C had reasonable grounds based on a reasonable investigation for its belief that he had been guilty of gross misconduct or, alternatively, that the tribunal had failed adequately to explain how it had concluded that C's investigation had been a reasonable one.
HELD: (1) It was axiomatic that an employee did not have a proper chance to refute allegations made against him and to defend his name if he was not told with sufficient clarity the allegations made against him. If he was not informed of in the manner provided by his contract of employment, the employer's conduct was even less reasonable. (2) W's dismissal was unfair.
Appeal allowed. Case remitted for consideration of remedy.

LTL 31/10/2001

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