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Unfair Dismissal

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Was it unfair to dismiss a teacher who had been suspected (but not charged) of possessing indecent images of children?

No, held the Court of Session (Inner House) in L v K.

The case concerned a teacher who had been arrested after indecent images of children were found on his home PC. His son had access to his computer and was also arrested but the charges against both were subsequently dropped. The matter was subject to an investigation by the school and the teacher was dismissed. The reason for the dismissal was that, whilst it could not be proved that the teacher had downloaded the images, the fact he may have done gave risk to a safeguarding concern, reputational risk and a breakdown in trust.

The teacher claimed unfair dismissal but the first instance tribunal found that he had been fairly dismissed for some other substantial reason (SOSR). The EAT found fault with the dismissal as the SOSR grounds had not been clearly put.

The matter was referred to the Court of Session who found that the EAT had erred. It concluded that in some circumstances it will be reasonable for an employer to dismiss someone who may be innocent if there is a genuine and substantial reason to justify the dismissal. This was plainly such a case.

Thanks to Mark Alaszewski of didlaw for preparing this case summary.