Alan Bailes had been employed by First Bristol Limited as a bus driver for 22 years.
As with many other employers in the Transport sector, First Bristol carries out random drug and alcohol testing of its employees.
Mr Bailes failed a saliva test, which picked up traces of cocaine. He was adamant that he had never taken cocaine in his life. Instead, he maintained that traces of the drug must have come from handling the fares paid by some passengers on the day on which the test was carried out. In an attempt to prove his innocence he paid £440 to have an independent hair follicle test, the results of which confirmed that he had not taken cocaine in the 90 days before the test.
The Employment Tribunal heard evidence that 88 per cent of bank notes carry detectable traces of illegal drugs and, accordingly, it was highly likely that traces of the drug had transferred from the notes handled by him on the day of the random drugs test onto the test swab.
In awarding £83,910 compensation, the Tribunal took into account that the employer had failed to carry out a reasonable investigation and that, although Mr Bailes had tried to mitigate his losses by looking for other work, the fact that he had been dismissed for failing a drugs test was off-putting to other public transport employers.
The case highlights the importance to employers of adhering to the so-called “British Home Stores vs. Burchell” tests, which include carrying out a reasonable investigation, before dismissing for misconduct employees who have unfair dismissal rights.
For further information
Please contact Cambridge employment solicitor Nick Sayer on 01223 411421.