The Employment Tribunal (ET) awarded a gay headteacher, Matthew Aplin, over £696,000 in compensation after he successfully brought a claim for unfair dismissal and sexual-orientation discrimination. The headteacher was dismissed by his employer Tywyn Primary School following an investigation that found Mr Aplin had sex with two 17-year old boys at his home.
Mr Aplin met the two 17-year old boys on an app called Grindr and the three of them had sex. Following a Local Authority investigation, it was concluded that no criminal offence had took place. There were also no child protecting issues involved.
The school conducted its own disciplinary investigation into whether Mr Aplin’s conduct had brought the school into disrepute, whether his conduct outside work had undermined his ability to fulfil his role, and whether it displayed a gross error of judgement such as to undermine the school’s confidence in him.
Mr Gordon had the role of investigating officer, this was a fact-finding role. His approach lacked objectivity and believed child protection issues were involved. This was against the findings of the Local Authority.
A Local Authority lawyer was there to advise the panel, although Mr Gordan advised the panel which went beyond his duty as the investigating officer. Mr Gordan brought to the attention of the panel some Local Authority papers from their investigation which had not, and were never seen by Mr Aplin.
The school dismissed Mr Aplin. He appealed and again was not given access to all the evidence from the investigation from which the panel had based its decision on.
As a final straw Mr Aplin was informed late on that the school would be instructing a barrister and that he was entitled to have legal representation. Mr Aplin then resigned, claiming constrictive dismissal.
As a whole, these matters were enough to constitute a breach of trust and confidence.
The above decision was appealed by the Governing Body of Tywyn Primary School. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the ET original decision that Mr Aplin had been constructively dismissed.
This case shows that full evidence should be made available when a person is being investigated (consideration should be given to those named within the investigation), and the role of investigating officer has clear boundaries.