A Tribunal has ruled that an employer has carried out an inquiry into drug usage in a ‘deeply flawed’ manner after an employer who took caffeine tablets was accused of distributing drugs.
The London tribunal has awarded a trainee emergency call operator more than £16,000 after it found that the he was racially discriminated against by his former employer during an investigation into drug usage. The employee, Jerry Ogbonna, was suspended from his duties without pay after just five days in his role at the Partnership of East London Cooperatives (PELC) after the employer accused him of taking and handing out illegal substances to his colleagues.
Following the suspension of Ogbonna, the tribunal found that the correct protocol and procedure was not adhered to as the investigation failed to identify what drugs or substances were in question and who was involved in the incident. This therefore meant they could do not guarantee the illegality of the situation.
The judge that was in charge of ruling over the case, Judge Tobin, stated that Ogbonna, who is black, was subject to “suspension, investigation and summoned to an unjustifiable disciplinary hearing” in circumstances which would not of seen a white person be treated the same. This led to the tribunal finding the PELC guilty of unlawful race discrimination.
On 2nd August 2017, Ogbonna began work as a trainee emergency call operator with PELC which is an urgent care provider. However the role soon became a nightmare for Ogbonna as five days into a 10 day intensive training course he was suspended without pay when other hopefuls started to raise concerns about ‘smart drugs’. These form of drugs are often used as performance enhancing tools which can either be legal or illegal. There were also additional concerns that the drugs were being circulated to other trainees on the course.
Ogbonna was also accused of other actions, these included giving another trainee a substance which made her collapse which warranted the response of an ambulance, taking a photo of a senior member of staff and then sharing it in a WhatsApp group which was against policies the company had in place.
During the tribunal the PELC told the judge that they had followed the correct disciplinary procedure and followed company policies whilst investigating the allegations against Ogbonna. However given the evidence and argument from the PELC the tribunal found that the investigation conducted had discovered that Ogbonna did not consume or distribute an illegal substance but was using Pro Plus which is a caffeine supplement. The tribunal ruled that the company did not try and ascertain the legality of this drug.
Additionally it was determined that the cause of the other trainee collapsing was unrelated to the incident in which Ogbonna was involved and that he had not breached any of PELC’s social media policies.
Ogbonna argued that the reason for the investigation was due to his race and that the allegations were based on no concrete evidence. Due to this the tribunal found that Ogbonna was racially discriminated against as the claims that he had consumed and supplied the ‘smart drug’ were just speculation based on next to no facts.
As a result of this case the tribunal awarded Ogbonna £16,202.59 compensation for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and an additional Acas uplift.
If you have any queries about the contents of this article, please contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0151 556 1975