An engineer from a telecoms firm, who wrongly claimed he had been “blackmailed” into assisting his employer in making a false insurance claim, has had his bid for dismissal compensation thrown out.
Gordon Mullan worked for Newtel Limited from June 2019 until 16 July 2020 when he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The following month, he brought a claim before the Employment Tribunal citing unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, breach of contract for failing to follow company disciplinary procedure, unlawful deduction from wages and accrued but unpaid holiday pay.
He also brought a further claim for failure to provide itemised pay statements which was later withdrawn.
They issued a counterclaim covering the cost of repairing the van damaged in the incident, which Mr Mullan did not defend. The Employment Tribunal therefore concluded in October 2020 that Mr Mullan should pay Newtel £1,251.40.
Mr Mullan’s claims were considered by Advocate Fraser Robertson, the Deputy Chairman of the Employment Tribunal in August 2021, after charges brought against Newtel Chief Executive Gary Whipp and Chief Operating Officer, Sabri Mokrani, for conspiracy to defraud an insurance company were dropped.
Pictured: Newtel successfully brought a claim against their former employee for £1,251.40 of damages.
Mr Mullan was employed as Telecom Field Engineer, a role which required him to install telecommunications equipment at customers' premises. He worked closely with another employee who did not have a driving licence and was uninsured, and therefore Mr Mullan “did all the driving” and was responsible for the company vehicle.
Mr Whipp, CEO of Newtel, also said Mr Mullan was senior to the other employee and was “in effect his supervisor”.
On 7 July 2020, Mr Mullan’s colleague drove the vehicle and collided with pallet racking whilst reversing it into Newtel’s warehouse, which is located near the M&S store in St. Peter, causing £2,700-worth of damage.
After advising Mr Mokrani of the incident, Mr Mullan drove the vehicle to an insurer-approved vehicle accident repair centre to get a quote. He initially said Mr Mokrani had instructed him to do so but later admitted he had taken it upon himself to conduct the claims process.
The following day, a meeting was held between Mr Whipp, Mr Mokrani, Mr Mullan and the other employee. Mr Whipp said Mr Mullan and his colleague’s version of events were “confusing and did not make sense” as they both claimed they had been driving and then claimed they had not been the driver.
He therefore asked both employees to prepare a written statement about the incident independently.
Pictured: Mr Whipp said the employees had given "confusing" versions of events.
Mr Mullan said Mr Whipp told him and his colleague they could both pay for the necessary repairs or both have their contract terminated. He claimed he was blackmailed into “committing fraud by falsifying insurance documents” by claiming he had been the one driving.
At a further meeting, Mr Whipp, who had been given a video showing Mr Mullan encouraging his colleague to drive in January 2020, asked him whether he had let his colleague drive on the day of the incident. Mr Mullan said no but admitted he had let him drive on other days, but only in the warehouse.
He later admitted he had let his colleague drive outside the warehouse and accepted he had lied to Mr Whipp.
Mr Whipp told him his conduct amounted to gross misconduct, which would justify instant dismissal. He gave Mr Mullan the opportunity to resign with a settlement sum of eight weeks’ pay or to be suspended pending further investigation which could lead to a disciplinary hearing, which Mr Mullan eventually chose.
Mr Whipp decided that given Mr Mullan’s conduct, which included lying to him, putting members of the public at risk by encouraging his colleague to drive on a public road, and having covertly recorded meetings despite being asked not to do so, there was no point in having a further investigation. He therefore wrote to Mr Mullan advising him his contract had been terminated.
In his judgment, Advocate Robertson wrote that he had found Mr Mullan’s evidence “inconsistent and unreliable”. He agreed that any further investigation in the case would have been “futile and could be dispensed with”, concluding that Mr Whipp had a “genuine belief” that Mr Mullan was guilty of gross misconduct.
“Lying to one’s employer, encouraging junior employees to break the law thus potentially endangering members of the public, and covertly recording meetings (particularly in circumstances where the employee was told it was not permitted and should not do so) are acts clearly amounting to gross misconduct justifying summary dismissal,” he wrote.
He therefore dismissed all of Mr Mullan’s claims.
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