The homelessness charity St Mungo’s wrongfully dismissed an employee who had been attacked by a resident with two knives, an employment tribunal has ruled.
New tribunal documents show that the charity wrongfully dismissed the claimant, named in the papers only as Mr M Finnerty, after deciding he responded to a violent incident in a way that breached his contract.
The judgment says Finnerty had worked at the charity as a housing management and lettings co-ordinator from 27 March 2000 until his dismissal for gross misconduct on 6 June 2019.
It says he had attended a housing project on the 2 August 2018, where he was confronted by a resident who was being evicted for threatening a contractor with a knife.
Finnerty was signing for a delivery at the front door of the property when the resident entered the hallway with his dog.
The judgment says Finnerty had said the resident was threatening to kill him and attack him with his dog.
Finnerty feared for his life because the resident had a history of threatening people with knives, the judgment says, so he ran at the resident and pushed him outside the property and into its bin storage area.
CCTV footage showed the resident re-entering the property and an altercation ensued, with the resident pulling a knife from his waistband.
Later, the resident is seen producing a second knife and is shown slashing at Finnerty, who kicks out at him and uses a fire extinguisher to defend himself.
In a statement he gave to the police Finnerty admitted punching the resident, but he did not include all of that information in an incident form he was asked to complete by the charity.
Failing to disclose this information to St Mungo’s was the reason for the disciplinary process, according to the tribunal documents.
The case against Finnerty was that he had instigated the violence and misled the charity about the incident afterwards.
In his decision, Judge Palmer said he accepted that Finnerty was so traumatised by the incident that he did not see the significance of filling in the form.
The tribunal documents show that the police arrested the resident, who was subsequently convicted of crimes that were not specified in the ruling.
The judgment says Finnerty suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the attack and will be entitled to damages for the notice pay he would otherwise have received.
A remedy hearing will take place in July to decide how much he should receive.
In his decision, Judge Palmer said: “The claimant did not behave ideally, but in all the circumstances I do not consider that the decision to dismiss him falls within a band of reasonable responses of an employer faced with the circumstances with which they were faced.
“Perhaps a more appropriate sanction by the respondent would have been a warning or even a final written warning.”
The judge acknowledged that Finnerty did not explain why he had given two versions of events, which he had not taken the opportunity to correct and his reasons for not doing so were not wholly consistent.
A St Mungo’s spokesperson said: “We note the decision of the tribunal which we received today and are reviewing the judgment with our legal team. As the process is ongoing we are unable to comment further at this time.”