Mr Adesokan had worked for Sainsbury’s for 26 years before he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
He was Regional Operations Manager. The Human Resources Partner who worked alongside him sent an inappropriate email to five store managers. It was to do with a procedure that Sainsbury’s was running to assess the level of its staff engagement. The results would be relevant to performance progression, target setting, pay, bonuses and staff deployment.
The email suggested that stores should focus predominantly on getting the most enthusiastic colleagues to complete the survey. When Mr Adesokan found out about this he asked the HR Partner to clarify the position with the store managers. But that wasn’t done, and Mr Adesokan didn’t take action to put that right. He didn’t contact the stores directly. Nor did he tell more senior management what had happened.
He was dismissed because of his gross negligence. But was that, as the employer believed, tantamount to gross misconduct? And was summary dismissal justified? Yes and yes, the High Court held – and the Court of Appeal agreed. Although Mr Adesokan hadn’t been dishonest and he hadn’t made a conscious decision to not eliminate the effects of the email, he was guilty of gross misconduct because he hadn’t taken active steps to put things right. His inaction had seriously damaged the employer’s trust and confidence in him.
Negligence won’t always amount to gross misconduct, but Mr Adesokan’s senior position in the business was relevant. Here, there was a serious breach of the standards expected of this manager by his omissions, rather than his actions.