The Court of Appeal has ruled that it was unreasonable to dismiss a nurse who made a lewd remark at work.
The nurse made a sexual comment as she was helping to restrain a patient. She was dismissed six weeks later by her NHS Trust after a complaint was made.
An employment tribunal held that although the comment could be described as lewd, most people would consider it merely humorous. It held that the nurse had been unfairly dismissed.
Unreasonable to dismiss her
That decision has now been upheld by the Appeal Court. It held that while the remark was misguided and inappropriate, it was only intended to amuse.
It was also relevant that no member of the public was present at the time and there was no evidence that the patient was aware of the remark. Her superiors that were present, including the doctor and senior nurse, didn’t speak to her about the incident at the time, nor did they report it.
While the NHS trust may have been justified in taking some disciplinary action against the nurse, it was unreasonable to dismiss her.