Bellway has been cleared of improperly sanctioning an employee who tried to resell a former show home sofa she bought through a company-run charity auction.
Karen Bushrod was a part-time salesperson at Bellway’s office in Corsham, Wiltshire, but left the housebuilder in October 2021 after receiving a written warning.
An employment tribunal ruled against her claims of unfair dismissal last year, but only published details of the case and reasons behind the judgement on 20 September.
In July 2021, Bushrod bought a sofa for £85 that remained unsold after an internal staff auction of furniture from a show home.
She then put the sofa up for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and was contacted by a potential buyer – named in tribunal proceedings as “Mrs Clark”. Bushrod took Clark to the show home to view the sofa, on a Sunday when the site was closed.
The sale did not go ahead, with messages between the two suggesting the sofa was sold to someone else. This led Clark to suggest to Bushrod she had been scammed and Bushrod subsequently blocked Clark on Facebook.
Clark emailed Bellway to complain, calling Bushrod a “rude lady” and suggesting Bellway might want to deal with the matter internally.
Bellway launched an investigation and subsequently said it was concerned Bushrod’s actions were a breach of health and safety rules, misused company property and could cause the company reputational damage.
After a preliminary investigation, the matter was brought to a disciplinary hearing, which was dealt with by divisional finance director Iwan Roberts.
The judgement document says Roberts was “shocked” at the number of items Bushrod had bought at staff auctions, highlighting that she had bought eight sofas, four beds and nine sets of tables. He did not believe that these were all bought for her own use and argued that selling on items went “against the spirit of a charity auction”. Roberts issued her a final written warning.
After Bushrod lost an appeal to overturn the warning, she submitted a sick note stating she was not fit for work due to “anxiety and stress”. She filed her resignation two months later.
Bushrod took her case to the employment tribunal, claiming that the incident amounted to constructive dismissal, whereby an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment. She also argued that she had been treated less favourably due to being a part-time worker, with respect to a requirement to work flexibly across sites.
But an employment tribunal judged in favour of Bellway and dismissed Bushrod’s claims.
“In circumstances where a proportionate disciplinary sanction was imposed following a fair process conducted in accordance with procedures we do not find that the implied term of trust and confidence was breached by reason of the fact that the claimant did not agree with the conclusions,” Judge Le Grys said.
“For these reasons we do not find that the claimant was constructively dismissed and the claim must therefore fail.”