Leicester City Council has appealed a tribunal judgment which found the authority should not have formally disciplined an employee for possessing a photo of a co-worker with a sex toy stuck to his head.
A ruling issued by Employment Judge Richard Adkinson in October said evidence in the case brought by John Gibbin – a technician who carried out repairs on the council’s properties and had been struggling with grief and depression– showed a ‘lack of sensitivity and support in the council’.
Judge Adkinson said the worker in the photo, who was wearing council-branded clothing and lanyard and was pictured on council property, was dealt with informally by the council, in contrast to John Gibbin, who received the photo by email. Mr Gibbin made five claims of discrimination arising from a disability relating to eight alleged incidents. He also made three allegations of failure to make reasonable adjustments for his disability.
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Judge Adkinson found a number of claims to be ‘well founded’, including that Ian Craig – then Head of Service (Housing) – told Mr Gibbin to ‘buck his ideas up’ and ‘needed a good kick up the ****’. The tribunal panel also ruled the council’s actions in requesting an interception report into Mr Gibbin’s computer, inviting Mr Gibbin to investigatory meetings and issuing him with a formal warning for his attendance, were discriminatory.
While signed off work for depression in June 2019 following the death of a close relative, Mr Gibbin was given permission by the Director of Housing to use his work computer to transfer files and apply for another council role. Repairs manager Aidy Farmer and Mr Craig instructed the council’s corporate investigation team to find out what Mr Gibbin had been doing on the computer, with the team uncovering items deemed inappropriate by the council, including the photo of Mr Gibbin’s colleague, Ricky Riley, with the 12″ sex toy attached to his forehead.
The tribunal judgment said: “The photograph clearly shows Mr Riley is stood in a Leicester City Council office. He is wearing a Leicester City Council fleece – it has Leicester City Council’s logo on it and the words ‘Leicester City Council’ written on it. He is wearing a lanyard that shows he works for Leicester City Council. He is stood upright in the photograph with what appears to be a 12-inch long dildo stuck to his head.”
Other images included a photo of four runners dressed as postboxes with the title ‘Royal Mail of Islam’, a picture of a van with the words ‘Keith Vass (sic) is a ****’ painted on it – believed to refer to former Leicester East MP Keith Vaz – and a picture of two snowmen ‘apparently having sex’.
Mr Gibbin was subject to a disciplinary hearing in March 2020 before being given a final written warning for a year. The tribunal noted no formal action was taken against Mr Riley and felt this was important ‘when evaluating council’s actions towards Mr Gibbin’. Judge Adkinson said: “It is easy to see how the city council might be perceived if it were revealed that its employees were posing for such photos while at work. It is therefore telling that Mr Riley was dealt with informally.”
A council spokesperson said: “I can confirm that we believe we have grounds for appeal and have done so, but won’t be commenting further at this time.”
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