February 23, 2015

An employee had a generous gesture of giving his home-grown tomato plants to his colleagues. All but one colleague received the tomato plants and due to this he was accused of favouritism and was sacked.

A Juicy Gesture

Richard Chapman, former clerk of Malvern Town council had been in his post for 12 years until the tomato scandal occurred. With an unblemished reputation it was a shock Richard was dismissed for a minor mistake. He regularly brought in home grown tomatoes to share with his colleagues, a hobby he enjoyed. In October 2013 an employee made a complaint to the council. She was the only employee to never receive one of Richard’s home grown tomatoes.


Richard’s failure to include this employee in his tomato-giving gesture resulted in him being accused of favouritism. Favouritism is a breach of the Council’s “bullying and harassment policy”. Angela Roberts, an external HR consultant was appointed to undertake the investigation. She found that over the past 10 years he had been accused of other bullying allegations. On one occasion, Richard shouted at two members of staff.

Furthering the case

Roberts recommended that Chapman should be subject to a formal disciplinary hearing for his gross misconduct.

The Council however managed to get things wrong in a number of areas.

• They initially gave Chapman a written warning which would “remain on his record forever”.

• But this statement is a contravention of the Acas Code.

The Plague

The Council changed the sanction from a written warning to dismissal and Chapman was let go in April 2014. He then claimed unfair dismissal.

The tribunal judge stated she had rarely heard a case “where the unfairness of the dismissal was so apparent.” Shedrew mention to the following matters:

• The council’s failure to control the investigation.

• The council failed to “pin down” the allegations


For further details on our Employment practice please see our website www.cfrlaw.co.uk

Please note: The content of this newsletter is for information purposes only. Further advice should be sought from a professional advisor before any action is taken.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors, 50 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FW

T: 028 9024 3141, Fax: 028 9024 9096, www.cfrlaw.co.uk
All Island Law – A legal alliance MOP Dublin & CFR Belfast February 2015