A call centre manager was unfairly dismissed after an outbreak of office “banter” turned nasty and a member of her staff was kicked unconscious by a colleague, a tribunal has ruled.
Fay Hand, an operations manager for almost 17 years at mobile phone company EE’s site in Darlington, was awarded a five-figure sum.
In his ruling, tribunal judge Gerald Johnson wrote that call centre work could be “somewhat mundane and repetitive” and that there were “occasional incidents of banter” such as “crop dusting” when wind is broken near a colleague.
However, in September one worker became the victim of a series of pranks, including having his car keys taken. After his security pass was defaced with a permanent marker, which he claimed was “the last straw”, he attacked the colleague responsible at his desk, kicking him unconscious.
EE sacked seven employees, including the victim, the kicker, and Mrs Hand, 37, saying she had breached its anti-bullying policies. However Mr Johnson found Mrs Hand was “clearly a highly-regarded and valued employee”, that EE had held a wholly inadequate investigation into Mrs Hand’s actions and that her dismissal was pre-judged.
Mrs Hand, of Wynyard, Teesside, said: “It was painful but I had to stand up for myself.”