BBC Producer's Final Written Warning 'Manifestly Inappropriate'

Workplace disciplinary processes often have a number of distinct phases and legal errors in any one of them can be enough to infect the whole. That point was made in the case of a BBC producer who was summarily dismissed after being issued with a manifestly inappropriate final written warning.

The producer had a record of 18 years' unblemished service with the BBC. He had apologised to a senior manager after shouting at her during an argument, but the warning was issued following his disagreement with another manager as to whether it was appropriate to broadcast a particular news story.

The warning triggered a series of further investigations and, following a disciplinary process, the producer was dismissed. He was, amongst other things, found to have behaved in a bullying and intimidating manner and to have been involved in creating and perpetuating a culture of fear. An Employment Tribunal (ET) subsequently found that the warning was a wholly inappropriate response to the behaviour alleged, but nevertheless rejected his unfair dismissal claim.

In overturning the latter ruling, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the ET had failed to focus on the vital issue of whether the producer’s dismissal was objectively reasonable. That in large part depended on the extent to which the existence of the flawed warning on his employment record had been taken into account by the final decision maker. In the circumstances, the case was sent back to the same ET for reconsideration.