Employee dismissed unfairly for ‘humping’ table in front of colleagues.

An Employment Tribunal in North Shields has found that engineering giant, Siemens, unfairly dismissed Robert Cuthbertson after he was accused of ‘humping’ a table in front of colleagues. Robert Cuthbertson was awarded just under £15,000 after they found that ‘no reasonable employer would dismiss an employee for this behaviour.’

Mr Cuthbertson had worked at Siemens from 1976 until his dismissal in November 2016 and was a trainer for their apprentice’s programme.

The tribunal heard that sexual language and sexual conversation were not uncommon at Siemens on the factory floor and that it was also common for there to be photos of nude women on the walls.

In October 2106, a parcel arrived at the Siemens reception with no name or address attached. The parcel was opened and a sex toy was found inside. This created some lively discussion, during which, Mr Cuthbertson pulled his trousers down and proceeded to ‘hump the table’.

Siemens decided that Mr Cuthbertson’s behaviour was sufficient to warrant gross misconduct, and decided to dismiss him. Siemens disciplinary rules prohibit the use of bad language and felt the incident was enough to bring their company into disrepute.

Siemens specifically argues that there was a major risk that the apprentices would see this behaviour, with the dismissing Siemens officer telling the judge that they believed Cuthbertson’s actions was similar to other obvious examples of gross misconduct. However, the tribunal accepted Mr Cuthbertson’s version of events that no apprentices saw him ‘hump the table’.

The tribunal also criticised the dismissal process saying that Siemens didn’t provide sufficient time prior to meetings. Mr Cuthbertson also admitted that his behaviour was a ‘moment of madness’ and that it would not happen again.

The tribunal Judge decided that the decision to dismiss Mr Cuthbertson was “wholly disproportionate” to his actions, particularly as conversations of a sexual nature had been commonplace at Siemens in the past.

The Judge also found that Mr Cuthbertson had contributed to his own dismissal so reduced the total award by 25%.

A spokesperson for Siemens said: “While we must accept the decision, we do not regret our decision to dismiss Cuthbertson. His behaviour, which he did not deny, was totally unacceptable and against our core values to protect our employees from disrespectful behaviour. There is no place for such behaviour at Siemens. We consider the outcome – the dismissal of Cuthbertson – as correct.”

 

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