Prestonpans postie wins £17k after sacking over chewing gum
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Graham Harvey was spotted by the homeowner who complained to his bosses, showing CCTV evidence of his 'disgusting' behaviour.
The then 59-year-old was sacked for gross misconduct after the video also showed him driving without a seat belt and leaving his Royal Mail van unlocked.
But an employment tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed as none of these actions should have amounted to a sackable offence.
He has now been awarded £17,244.11 in compensation.
The tribunal heard Mr Harvey was 59 had worked for Royal Mail for 25 years when he was sacked following the incident in 2020.
He was based at its Prestonpans office where he had a predominantly rural route to deliver to.
The hearing was told that in October that year, a customer visited the office and said that Mr Harvey had 'removed a piece of chewing gum from his mouth and placed it on a gate lantern at the property'.
The incident was captured on CCTV footage which was e-mailed to his manager along with a photograph. The customer’s email described the conduct as 'disgusting', but he said he and his wife did not wish to 'make a huge fuss about it'.
The tribunal heard the video also showed Mr Harvey driving his vehicle without a seatbelt and leaving items of mail on the front passenger seat.
On his return to work the following Monday, Jordan Cree, the Delivery Office Manager for the office, asked Mr Harvey to have a word in his office.
Mr Harvey admitted to driving without a seatbelt and leaving items of mail on his passenger seat but denied placing chewing gum on the customer’s premises.
The tribunal heard he was suspended at the end of the meeting pending 'further investigations into an alleged incident where you have defaced a customer’s property'.
A disciplinary meeting was held in October, when Mr Harvey admitted all of the allegations against him including the placing of chewing gum on the customer’s property.
He described it as a 'stupid decision' and said he had done it 'on two occasions at most'. He offered to apologise to the customer.
He also admitted driving without a seatbelt in rural locations and added it was 'common practice' for him and for many others over many years, if not decades, to drive without seatbelts in certain situations at certain locations.
Concerns were also raised of potential 'massive reputational damage' to Royal Mail arising from the CCTV being placed on social media, but the tribunal heard no evidence any video being posted.
The tribunal heard he was sacked at the end of the meeting after bosses ruled all three offences were gross misconduct.
He then lost an appeal with another manager saying he believed the chewing gum issue was a 'deliberate act on [Mr Harvey's] part to cause anxiety and distress'.
Employment Judge Ronald Mackay ruled the dismissal was unfair, and added: "To dismiss, for a first offence, an employee with a clean record and 25 years service, should not have been approached with that mind-set."