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BBC’s dismissal of Journalist who prioritised Sri Lankan news report over Prince George’s birth was unfair

23 September 2016 #Employment

BBC World Service Journalist Chandana Bandara was issued with a final written warning following his refusal to prioritise a news report on the birth of Prince George over one on the anniversary of ‘Black July’ (concerning the massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka). A year later Mr Bandara was dismissed, in reliance on the final written warning, for further acts of misconduct.

The Employment Tribunal concluded that his final written warning had been too severe considering his previous 18 years unblemished service. As this was relied upon to justify his dismissal a year later, the dismissal was unfair.  However, the Tribunal reduced Mr Bandara’s award significantly to account for contributory fault.  Mr Bandara’s additional claim of discrimination did not succeed with the tribunal finding that his support for Sri Lankan Tamils was too ‘local’ and ‘limited’ to constitute a philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

This case highlights the importance of proportionate sanctions and the dangers employers can face in relying on existing warnings.  Employers are, of course, entitled to consider previous live warnings relating to similar conduct when disciplining an employee and it would be impractical for an employer to seek to re-investigate past disciplinary offences to check that they warranted the sanction imposed.  However, employers should, at least, put their mind to whether there are any potential challenges to that sanction if they are seeking to rely on it to dismiss.

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