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Supreme Court: unfair dismissal upheld

The Supreme Court has upheld a finding by the Employment Tribunal that a man was unfairly dismissed after being accused of theft.

Earlston Bradshaw was summarily dismissed by Raynor's Service Station after an incident involving a $50 bill dropped by a customer, but the tribunal found that in all of the circumstances a reasonable employer would have given him the benefit of the doubt.

However, the service station appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that the tribunal had misdirected itself on the definition of theft and that the decision was made against the weight of the evidence.

The court had heard that Mr Bradshaw had taken the $50 bill, which had been dropped by a customer.

He said that he pocketed the bill because he was servicing other customers at the time and wanted to ensure the money was returned to its owner. When he was initially approached by the customer, he denied finding the money, but confronted by the same customer outside a short time later he handed over the money. In a judgment dated June 3, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley found that the core dispute before the tribunal was not on the issue of theft, but on if Mr Bradshaw had acted dishonestly.

And he found that the tribunal could have reasonably reached the decision that it had, having heard all of the evidence.

“It is easy to see why the appellant is disappointed with having its view of the facts rejected,” Dr Justice Kawaley wrote. “The respondent's conduct was, in the absence of any reasonable explanation, quite clearly capable of being construed as amounting to theft. However his explanation, combined with previous good character, was hardly one which should have been ‘laughed out of court'.”

He consequently dismissed the appeal, finding that both branches had failed.

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Published June 08, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 08, 2016 at 8:36 am)

Supreme Court: unfair dismissal upheld

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