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Unfair dismissal case over $50 bill still going after more than six years

A man fired from a gas station over a $50 bill dropped by a customer more than six years ago has been given a chance to appeal his dismissal before the Supreme Court.

Earlston Bradshaw was fired from the job of pump attendant at Raynor’s Service Station in January 2015, but he launched a prolonged legal battle to argue his dismissal was unfair.

Mr Bradshaw this year sought permission to appeal a decision against him by the Employment Tribunal on a number of grounds, including that the tribunal made “fundamental errors of law”.

But in a decision dated August 11, Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden struck out all but one of the grounds – leaving Mr Bradshaw able to pursue only an argument that he was disadvantaged by delays in the process.

Mr Justice Mussenden said: “There is indeed inordinate delay, with responsibility of varying degrees to all parties.

“The issue to be examined is whether or not the delay contributed to any unfairness to the appellant before the tribunal.

“In my view, these are all matters that should be fleshed out on appeal with a purposeful review of the record and any other evidence.”

However the judge added that Mr Bradshaw would have to overcome “significant hurdles” to win the case on the remaining ground.

The court previously heard that Mr Bradshaw was fired after he picked up a $50 bill dropped by a customer at the service station on January 22, 2015 and put it in his pocket.

Mr Bradshaw said that he had called out to find the owner of the bill, but the tribunal found that his evidence was contradicted by video footage.

The customer later approached the clerk and Mr Bradshaw about the missing bill, at which point Mr Bradshaw turned it over.

Reginald Raynor, the owner and operator of the gas station, fired Mr Bradshaw for serious misconduct, but Mr Bradshaw took the matter to the Employment Tribunal.

The tribunal initially found in Mr Bradshaw’s favour, but the matter was sent back to the tribunal by the Supreme Court after the court found that the tribunal had misconstrued evidence.

The tribunal then upheld the dismissal – a decision that Mr Bradshaw appealed to the Supreme Court.

The court heard the tribunal met on two days 15 months apart to re-hear the matter, with the delays caused by a range of factors including the unavailability of Mr Bradshaw’s legal counsel.

While Mr Justice Mussenden struck out the majority of the grounds of appeal, he said Mr Bradshaw had the right to press on with grounds of unreasonable delay.

The judge wrote: “In my view, the appeal should not be struck out just because the appellant wishes to advance his appeal and if successful, seek a third hearing before the Employment Tribunal.

“However, in light of my provisional view about the sole remaining ground of appeal of delay, some serious consideration should be given to the time that has passed since January 22, 2015, some 6½ years ago, when the infamous $50 note was dropped on the floor of the premises and the costs that have been incurred since, along with the other resources utilised in the proceedings.”