An employment tribunal has awarded just £2 to a claimant whose choice of companion for his disciplinary appeal hearing was vetoed by his employer.
In Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, the employment tribunal held that the employer breached the claimant’s right to be accompanied when it refused to allow his chosen companions to accompany him at a disciplinary appeal hearing.
However, the tribunal awarded compensation of only £2 on the basis that the employer had legitimate reasons for the refusal.
Disciplinary proceedings were brought against Mr Gnahoua, a bus driver who was caught using an iPad while his bus was in motion. He was represented at his disciplinary hearing by a Unite official, but the decision was taken to dismiss him.
Mr Gnahoua appealed and informed his employer that he wished to be accompanied by two brothers who had formed the PTSC union, of which the claimant had become a member.
While the employer was happy with someone else from the PTSC union attending, it had banned both brothers from representing its staff at hearings for one brother’s “threatening behaviour” towards members of staff and both brothers’ “dishonesty”.
One of the brothers had been an employee of the company, but had been dismissed for “harassment and intimidation” of another member of staff, a shop steward with Unite.
Mr Gnahoua ultimately attended his appeal hearing without representation and the decision to dismiss was upheld. His tribunal claims included that he had been denied the right to be accompanied at his disciplinary appeal hearing.
The employment tribunal accepted that, technically, the employer had breached the claimant’s right to be accompanied. However, the employment tribunal went on to award the sum of £2 because the employer had “strong grounds” for being unhappy with the choice of companion.
Although it is not statute, the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures states that all employees have the right to be accompanied to formal disciplinary hearings by either a work colleague or an accredited trade union representative where they reasonably request to do so.
Whether or not a request for a companion is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the individual case, which is why the compensation for this case was so nominal.