Sales boss wins out in car crash claims

The Fresh Direct depot in Lockett Road, Ashton
The Fresh Direct depot in Lockett Road, Ashton

A regional sales manager at a Wigan food retailer was unfairly sacked after being blamed over a company car crash, an employment tribunal has ruled.

But a judge believes Joel Lawson must take 50 per cent of the responsibility after he claimed to have been behind the wheel of a vehicle belonging to Ashton-based Fresh Direct.

Mr Lawson’s company VW Passat broke down while his partner Michael Thomas was driving the car, a Manchester hearing was told, and mechanics discovered a ball joint had failed on the ‘14’ plate vehicle.

Fresh Direct began disciplinary proceedings after being handed a repair bill of £6,500 and Mr Lawson was dismissed.

The tribunal heard while Mr Thomas was permitted to use the car, Mr Lawson told management he was driving on that occasion.

One key issue was whether the damage had been caused by driving over a pothole, or from a collision with a kerb.

But Employment Judge Wardle ruled Fresh Direct had exaggerated the level of impact needed to cause the mechanical failure, and had failed to call Mr Thomas as a witness during the disciplinary process.

Judge Wardle added: “That having been said it is the case that the claimant brought much of this on himself in that he was plainly untruthful when he advised the respondent he was driving the vehicle on the day in question.”

Mr Lawson was told his unfair dismissal claim payout would be reduced by 50 per cent, but he was entitled to three months’ holiday pay.