Hammersmith and Fulham LBC wrongfully dismissed a member of staff with 15 years 'unblemished service' for attending a walking tour of Hammersmith Bridge, even though it was still open to pedestrians at the time.
The tour was organised to promote the idea of turning Hammersmith Bridge into a temporary garden bridge while repairs were carried out.
The bridge is currently closed to all traffic due to significant structural damage. However at the time of the tour in May 2019 it was closed to motor traffic but not to pedestrians and cyclists.
Richard Evans was a travel plan co-ordinator in the transport policy unit at Hammersmith and Fulham Council and attended the event outside of his work hours.
He had informed his managers he would be attending a walking tour, which had been allowed by the council. The central carriageway was closed to pedestrians who were supposed to walk on the pavements at the side; however there was no signage at the time specifying this.
During the event, the tour group of up to 50 people was approached by Nicky Moodley (project manager, Hammersmith Bridge Strengthening and Refurbishment Project).
He told them that the bridge carriageway was out of bounds for meetings and pedestrians and asked them to leave the bridge.
The group questioned Mr Moodley on why they had to move and involved My Evans in the discussion.
Another marshall eventually joined Mr Moodley, and they decided to close the carriageway to riding cyclists as they believed that it was dangerous when there was a group gathered on the carriageway.
At about the same time the group started to move off the carriageway and onto the footways and walked back across the bridge on the footways. The whole incident lasted no more than 20 minutes. The bridge was closed to riding cyclists for about 45 minutes.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council accused Mr Evans of professional misconduct and argued his personal conduct outside work could have discredited the Council because he knew such a meeting was dangerous and should not have attended.
It was argued that due to his 'knowledge of the circumstances relating to the repair and safety of the bridge (gained from his position with the Council) he should not have actively participated in a meeting that congregated on the bridge'.
However, the council provided no evidence as to why he would have known the meeting was dangerous or even that such a meeting would reasonably have been considered dangerous at the time.
Employment Judge H Grewal found that the complaints of unfair and wronful dismissal were well-founded and listed a catalogue of mistakes from the council both in terms of evidence, conclusions and procedure.
The judge found that 'there was no evidence that the defects that had been identified made it dangerous for a group of fifty persons to walk across the bridge'.
The judge concluded: 'The Claimant was not given the particulars of the misconduct alleged against him prior to his dismissal, as a result he did not have the opportunity to provide his defence to it, the Respondent took into account a matter which was not part of the allegation, the Respondent did not conduct as much investigation into the allegation as was reasonable and it did not have any grounds on which to form the belief that it did that he was guilty of the misconduct for which he was dismissed.
'All of that has to be seen in the context of the Claimant being someone who had been employed by the Respondent for 15 years, had never been the subject of any disciplinary action, was a committed employee who was highly thought of by his managers and had told his managers that he attending the event and no one had told him that he should not.
'In all the circumstances of the case, the Respondent acted unreasonably in dismissing him for the reason as identified.'