The CBI Director General Tony Danker has been dismissed following an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct. The findings of the investigation have resulted in his dismissal for gross misconduct, the ultimate sanction. The BBC has reported that Danker will not receive any kind of exit package. Three other members of staff have been suspended with the City of London Police investigating the allegations. This from a lobby group lobbying to encourage women into the workforce.
Danker has refuted the allegations saying that he was “shocked to learn that I had been dismissed from the CBI instead of being invited to put my position forward as was originally confirmed. Many of the allegations against me have been distorted, but I recognise that I unintentionally made a number of colleagues feel uncomfortable and I am truly sorry about that”. Danker has said that his reputation has been totally destroyed.
Two things here. Was Danker given the opportunity to make his case? Danker is insisting he was the “fall guy”. Also, does the lack of intention to make others uncomfortable matter at all?
Danker has said that his dismissal letter contained four reasons for his dismissal including:
- organising a secret karaoke party for 15 people
- viewing the Instagram accounts of CBI staff
- sending non-work related messages to CBI staff
- inviting junior staff to breakfasts, lunches or one-to-one meetings.
The Board of the CBI has said that Danker’s conduct fell short of expectations of its Director General and that there had been serious failings at the CBI. The CBI’s president has said that there were strong legal grounds for the dismissal and that Danker could make a challenge if he felt unfairly treated. What would that challenge look like?
If Danker feels that he was not given the opportunity to put his position forward, no doubt he will claim that he was unfairly dismissed, either because a fair disciplinary process was not followed where he could put forward his version of events or because his actions fell short of gross misconduct.
Danker has insisted that he did not make sexually suggestive language and that his immediate dismissal for gross misconduct was not justified.
Danker has also referred to a complaint about “unwanted conduct” which is part of the definition of harassment in an employment law context. Danker has tried to distinguish verbal contact from physical contact to suggest that this was not unwanted conduct.
There is no distinction in law. Unwanted things can take many forms. Any lack of intention is also irrelevant.
And if the harassment complaint was upheld after an investigation, it is to be expected that this would have been one of the reasons for dismissal. There is no doubt that discriminatory conduct in the workplace would justify a gross misconduct finding.
A zero-tolerance and consistent approach to sexual harassment in the workplace is the only right approach if women are to feel safe in the workplace and to be encouraged to be there in the first place.
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The above is accurate as at 19 April 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.