Firefighter loses unfair dismissal claim

A RETAINED firefighter has lost his battle to prove that he was unfairly sacked from his job at Sudbury.The decision to throw out the case brought by Edwin Brown comes after a four-day employment tribunal hearing at Bury St Edmunds in July.

A RETAINED firefighter has lost his battle to prove that he was unfairly sacked from his job at Sudbury.

The decision to throw out the case brought by Edwin Brown comes after a four-day employment tribunal hearing at Bury St Edmunds in July.

Tribunal chairman James Cole, announcing the decision, said: "We all learn from our experiences in life and no doubt both parties in this dispute have also done so.

"But taking into account, as required of us, the equity and substantial merits of the case, we are entirely satisfied that Suffolk County Council acted reasonably."


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The tribunal had been told that Mr Brown had suffered from long-term harassment from a small group of colleagues, which culminated in him having to take two years off with stress.

The 39-year-old teetotaler found his boots filled with beer when he arrived at the fire station to answer a 999 call and on another occasion drawing pins had been placed inside.

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Mr Brown, of Cross Street, Sudbury, said he was subjected to offensive graffiti, items of personal property were vandalised and some firefighters refused to speak to him.

His career as a retained firefighter was ended by a decision to dismiss him in September 2001 for allegedly failing to fulfil the conditions of his contract of employment by returning to work.

That dismissal decision was upheld in October last year after the hearing of an appeal by a panel of county councillors.

When the tribunal opened, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Ken Seager said that Mr Brown had complaints and grievances against a large number of people but which investigations could not substantiate.

He said: "Certainly Mr Brown was claiming there were problems but it was impossible for us to determine who was behind it or if any of the incidents ever happened, other than the beer in the boots episode."

Mr Seager said that with no conclusive evidence the brigade was not in a position to take action against any individuals, although personnel at Sudbury were reminded of the standards of behaviour expected of them.

The decision to dismiss Mr Brown was taken as because of his attitude and apparent reluctance to return to duty, Mr Seager told the three member tribunal panel.

Suffolk Fire Service strongly denied any unfairness in that decision, said Mr Seager. He said there was no question that Mr Brown was capable of working well as a firefighter but he had given no indication of being able to resolve the problems of which he had complained.

During the tribunal hearing, Mr Brown said he believed some of the hostility he had encountered resulted from him not being in the traditional mould of a retained firefighter.

He said: "I had opinions and was not afraid to air them."

Giving the tribunal's decision, Mr Cole said: "Above all we hope Mr Brown will now be able to place this long chapter of unfortunate events behind him.

"We recognise that will not be easy. We accept he did, as a firefighter, a job he loved and its loss will be a disappointment to him.

"At least he has still the benefit of his main employment as a self employed builder. We wish him well for the future."

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