A Scots charity that supports homeless people has been ordered to pay a former Glasgow employee almost £20,000 after he was sacked by a new boss who was "keen to make her mark".

Mark Wellington, who was widowed in 2019 and has two teenage sons, had an unblemished 10-year career with the Simon Community before he was dismissed for misconduct leaving him "blindsided."

He was based at the charity's Lenzie Gate service in Glasgow where one-to-one support is provided to eight men affected by homelessness.

Janine Aitken joined the charity in September 2022 as service leader. 

She is said to have been told by an HR manager that previous bosses had "failed to address longstanding issues and had not conducted appropriate supervision of 30 support workers". An employment tribunal was told she was excited about the challenges in her new role.

During her "limited interaction" with the claimant on ten shifts Ms Aitken did not form a positive view of Mr Wellington, a British national who is of Black Caribbean ethnicity.  She considered that he "lacked motivation, was negative and resentful about her proposed changes".

Mr Wellington was working in the office when a resident contacted him to ask him to repair his scooter’s tyre.

He told the man he wasn't sure he could fix it but said he would look at it later.

Glasgow Times:

The resident is said to have later appeared at the office demanding the tyre was fixed immediately and saying he would get the support worker sacked. Another member of staff is said to have witnessed the outburst.

The man approached Ms Aitken and told her that Mr Wellington was "not nice to him".

She asked him if he wanted to make a formal complaint and he decided he did.

Ms Aitken was asked to investigate the complaint and under the heading “evidence gathered”, she listed themes including; negative attitude and behaviour, lack of motivation, avoidance of work tasks and sexually inappropriate language and behaviour.

She is said to have  "selectively quoted" comments from staff members who she considered relevant, all of which were anonymised and "lacked any context or timeframe."

The claimant was said to be stunned and upset by the comments read out to him. He did not recognise the person that was being described and likened the comments to a "character assassination".

Ms Aitken recommended that the matter should proceed to a disciplinary hearing, which was conducted online.

He explained that the resident who complained had "complex issues, challenging behaviours and could be vindictive when drinking" and had threatened to have him sacked.

Mr Wellington said that he thought he had a good relationship with colleagues, despite the high-pressure job.

He questioned why Ms Aitken had not spoken to the colleague who was present when the resident threatened to get him sacked and was said to be "blindsided" by the complaints.

He was dismissed for gross misconduct and appealed the decision describing the investigation process as "flawed and unjust".

During the appeal it emerged that Ms Aitken’s notebook which included notes of her discussions during the investigation was removed by the complaining resident. 

The tribunal judge described her as an unreliable witness who lacked experience and objectivity and instigated an "impulsive" investigation.

It concluded that it was her decision to escalate the matter to a formal complaint and to widen the scope of her investigation into the claimant’s work practice and ethos.

This was said to be less about Ms Aitken gaining an understanding of the experience of others and more about "making her mark as service lead."

She appeared to be seeking validation of her view of the claimant’s performance.

Her investigation form included a section for witness statements but none were prepared and was described as "selective, incomplete and contained inconsistencies and inaccuracies".

She disregarded evidence which she considered was neutral or supportive of the claimant.

The way in which the claimant was questioned appeared to be less about allowing the claimant to explain his position and more about telling him what had been recorded in the form.

There was no history of misconduct by the claimant. He was made aware of the alleged inappropriate sexual comments shortly before the disciplinary hearing and the appeal was described as a "rubber stamping exercise".

Mr Wellington won his unfair dismissal case but his claim that he was treated less favourably because of his ethnicity was rejected.