Greenberg v DPP Law Ltd UKEAT/0319/19/AT

Appeal against the ET’s decision dismissing the Claimant’s claim of unfair dismissal. Appeal allowed.

The Claimant was a partner in the Respondent firm, which undertakes legally aided criminal defence work. In the course of preparing the defence of a client, the Claimant received a cash payment of £300 from the client's father; he checked the position with the firm's compliance officer and the Law Society ethics helpline and concluded that he was entitled to keep the money. When it came to light that the Claimant had received a further £150 from the client's father, but had not checked the position in relation to this second payment, the Respondent commenced disciplinary proceedings leading to the Claimant's summary dismissal for gross misconduct. The Claimant claimed unfair dismissal, contending that the other partners had used the incident as a pretext to expel him. However, the ET found that the reason for dismissal was his conduct in relation to the second payment, which could be seen as a "top-up payment" in contravention of the Legal Aid Agency ("LAA") contract. The Claimant appealed on grounds including that the ET had erred in concluding (1) that the Respondent had reasonable grounds for its belief, when it had failed to follow a fair process, and (2) that dismissal was within the band of reasonable responses.

The EAT held that the ET's conclusion, in particular that the Respondent fairly found that the Claimant had knowingly accepted a top-up payment in breach of the LAA contract, was not sufficiently rooted in findings about what the Respondent had decided and why. Further, it held that the ET had failed to evaluate whether the reason for the Claimant's dismissal was one in respect of which the Respondent reasonably believed that dismissal was warranted. Accordingly, the matter would be remitted for re-rehearing by a fresh ET.

Published: 17/08/2020 10:16