Rogers & Norton News
Miller v William Hill
Q: What is a reasonable investigation?
A: It depends.
Reasonableness is all about context, and that includes consequences. Where an employer is investigating misconduct involving possible criminal activity, it should take extra care. That’s because of the serious effects that these sorts of dismissals can have on employees – damage to their reputation and on their ability to work in the future, for example. So it’s reasonable to investigate those things which could exonerate the employee, as well as those pointing to their guilt.
That’s what the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held in Miller v William Hill. Ms Miller was the deputy manager of a betting shop. She was suspected of having taken money which should have been returned to customers whose bets were void. She claimed to have made the refunds, but her explanations didn’t fit with CCTV footage. The employer didn’t believe her and she was dismissed.
Was the tribunal right to find that the dismissal was fair? The EAT said not. One of Ms Miller’s main arguments on appeal was that William Hill should have looked at the entire CCTV footage (to see if there was evidence backing up her defence) and not just the few segments the internal audit department had identified as indicating guilt. The EAT agreed with her. It would not have taken long, and it wouldn’t have been costly, for the company to have done that. Its failure meant that the investigation was not as thorough as the circumstances warranted, and was therefore unfair.