Ms Adeshina had been a principal pharmacist working at Wandsworth Prison. She was involved in leading a project to alter the way in which pharmacy services were provided. Her dismissal centred on her poor attitude to the organisational changes being made. Ms Adeshina claimed unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, whistleblowing, race discrimination and victimisation.
Her claims at both the Employment Tribunal and the EAT were unsuccessful. Ms Adeshina's appeal to the Court of Appeal focused on the argument that the misconduct found against her was incapable of justifying dismissal. The behaviour which was being considered included failing to implement the required changes, bad attitude to colleagues and prisoners, confronting a junior member of staff in front of more senior colleagues and refusing to apologise, being dismissive, rude and not paying attention during a meeting and expressing hostility towards the change project.
It was argued on her behalf that while she may have been rude to colleagues that would amount to mere misconduct only. It was also argued that her failure to lead the change was not said to have been deliberate and as such it could have been the result of incapability and not gross misconduct. The Court did not agree. Dismissing the appeal the Court said, "if it turned out that the Appellant was guilty of no more than being rude…….it might indeed be no more than……mere misconduct. But if she was found also to have been ostentatiously disengaged during the meeting itself, and/or to have been expressing strongly disaffected views……..that might indeed constitute or evidence serious insubordination."
Finding the point at which an employee's behaviour crosses the line from "mere misconduct" to "gross misconduct" in circumstances such as organisational change can be difficult. Issues such as seniority, responsibility for implementation of the changes and influence over other staff will be relevant in assessing whether the behaviour can be fairly categorised as gross misconduct. While each case will turn on the particular facts, this case does show that employers can take action to deal with an employee who disrupts attempts to implement workplace change.