An experienced assistance care manager at a Stourbridge care home has brought an unfair dismissal claim against her former employers after she was dismissed over allegations of racism and negligence.

Mrs Valerie Bunn, 57, worked for the Corbett House care home in Wordsley when the allegations were made against her. She was accused of neglecting to provide an elderly man with “appropriate care” and that she was overheard making racist comments to third party in the course of employment. The first incident occurred last year when Mrs Bunn was accused of failing to deal with a minor injury to an elderly patient and of shutting a door in the same patient’s face. She countered these accusations by stating that she if she had shut the door in his face then this had been accidental and that she had followed the proper procedures in the circumstances by arranging an appointment for the elderly resident with the local GP. It was also alleged that Mrs Bunn had made racist comments to staff which more than a dozen staff had overheard. As a result of these allegations a disciplinary process was carried out and Mrs Bunn was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct from her employment. She subsequently submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal from the registered charity that employed her.

The Birmingham Employment Tribunal heard how the assistant care manager – who has over 20 years’ experience in the industry – allegedly brought the home’s good reputation into disrepute through her (alleged) actions, including the accusations of racism and negligence. Mrs Bunn denied the allegations of racism, stating that her daughter-in-law was Hispanic and that she had good relations with all the residents. She also denied that she had made comments about a particular resident who (she said) smelled and said that certain members of staff were being “hypocritical” and petty. However, members of staff at the care home gave evidence and stated that the care home’s general atmosphere had improved since Mrs Bunn had left her employment. The Employment Tribunal claim has apparently adjourned pending a decision on liability.

Analysis of the case

Employees should be very careful as to their conduct in the workplace – particularly if their conduct is controversial. A remark which causes offence may be constructed as gross misconduct, warranting a summary dismissal. It’s better in the circumstances to be circumspect about your actions in the course of employment than to have to pursue an Employment Tribunal claim at a later date.

Direct 2 Lawyers offer free employment law advice for employees and free employment law advice for employers.

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