Can gross negligence constitute gross misconduct?
Yes, held the Court of Appeal in Adesokan v Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.
The Claimant was a Regional Manager who became aware that a HR Manager had issued an email which attempted to interfere in and subvert an important management consultation exercise. Despite being aware of this email the Claimant did nothing to get it withdrawn or to remedy the situation. In a disciplinary hearing it was decided that his inaction demonstrated gross negligence which was "tantamount to Gross Misconduct" and he was therefore dismissed. He sued for breach of contract
The High Court held that even though the inaction of the Claimant was not deliberate his negligence was so serious that it resulted in a "loss of trust and confidence" sufficient to justify dismissal. The Court of Appeal agreed that any decision on what amounted to gross misconduct turned on the specific facts of the case. Even though courts should not easily find that a mere failure to act amounted to gross misconduct, on the facts of this case the senior position the Claimant had in the Company justified the dismissal.
Thanks to Neil Addison of New Bailey Chambers for preparing this case summary .