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Ear-flicking row ends in employment tribunal

By cfayfineran  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

Ear-flicking row ends in employment tribunal

Ear-flicking row ends in employment tribunal

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A former police officer was sacked from a council after flicking a female colleague's ears, Bristol Employment Tribunals heard.

Debbie Chadwick-Edgar turned and punched Ian Napier after one incident - but then lodged a grievance that he had 'assaulted' her.

She also accused Mr Napier of goading and bullying her and claimed her chair was tampered with before she sat down, as well as accusing colleagues of shunning her - and admitted calling them 'f***ing bastards'.

Ms Chadwick-Edgar, 52, said Mr Napier flicked her on the ear or the back of the head up to 12 times during a five or six-week period.

Mr Napier later lost his job with the anti-social behaviour team at Swindon Council and is now claiming unfair dismissal.

Ms Chadwick-Edgar, a neighbourhood housing officer seconded to the team, was called as a witness for the council at Bristol Employment Tribunals.

Mr Napier, who is representing himself, asked her when their working relationship broke down, to which she replied: "Our working relationship changed when you hit me on the head or flicked my ear. It was behind me and I jumped and I instinctively punched you. I was uncomfortable with my own behaviour and uncomfortable with what you did."

Mr Napier asked: "Do you agree there was a lot of banter, a lot of horseplay, within the team?"

Mrs Chadwick-Edgar replied: "It was never play. I don't understand who would play in the office by physically assaulting another person, because that's what it was to me."

She said another flashpoint came when she arrived to work at the Anti-Social Behaviour team to find her chair had been tampered with.

She said: "The top of the seat was pushed down, the lumbar part was fully inflated, the seat had been pushed back and the back was down. It was for someone about 4ft to sit in."

Mr Napier, representing himself, asked his former colleague if she realised there was an office nearby where people took chairs for meetings.

He also asked her: "Is it right you stood up and called me and my colleagues 'f-ing b******s' and the 'C' word?"

Ms Edgar-Chadwick denied using the latter word but admitted using the other profanity as she felt she had again been singled out.

She said: "I was concerned I also lost control when I felt completely bullied and victimised by the rest of the team. As a result I got upset and swore."

Mrs Edgar-Chadwick, who was seconded to the team in summer last year, broke down in tears and later lodged a written complaint about the ear-flicking, the chair tampering and Mr Napier "goading" her. She was taken to a disciplinary hearing for punching of Mr Napier, but was found to have been provoked.

Mr Napier suggested that she had found him difficult to work with because of his strong opinions, to which she replied that though they worked on the same team, they did not work on the same cases.

The tribunal also heard evidence from Tony Howell, who had worked with the team before quitting his job in January. He said he had also had his ears flicked by Mr Napier.

But when asked by Mr Napier why he hadn't made a formal complaint, he replied: "I'm not a complaining type. I wouldn't raise a grievance for that personally.

"If I didn't like something I would just move on to be honest with you. It would have been a waste of time; if you knew that it upset me you would have done it even more."

Mr Howell told the tribunal he left the council while Mr Napier was suspended because he couldn't face the prospect of having to work with him again.

Simon Evans, the team's former line manager, also gave evidence for the council, saying Mr Napier and Mrs Chadwick-Edgar each expected an apology from the other and that he had "felt like a flipping nanny between a lot of children".

The tribunal heard that Mr Napier was dismissed for his conduct after an investigation which led to two other members of the team being suspended and then reinstated. The tribunal continues.

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