Last reviewed 26 February 2021
A lorry driver has lost his case in an employment tribunal at the East London Hearing Centre after claiming that he was unfairly dismissed for refusing to wear a face covering while in his cab on a delivery.
Deimantas Kubilius, who is believed to be the first person in Britain to be dismissed for this reason, worked as a Class 1 driver for a distribution company which transports food products from suppliers to customers.
The tribunal was told that the company considered a good relationship with clients and suppliers to be essential to its business.
It stated in its Employee Handbook: “You should, therefore, be courteous and pleasant to clients/suppliers at all times. Rudeness or off-hand treatment of clients/suppliers will not be tolerated, however badly the client/supplier may have behaved.”
The Handbook also warned that employees should take all reasonable steps to safeguard their own health and safety and that of any other person who might be affected by their actions at work.
Most significantly, for the case at issue, it stated: “Customer instruction regarding PPE requirement must be followed”.
One of the company’s major clients is the sugar company Tate & Lyle (T&L) and Mr Kubilius was a regular visitor to its Thames Refinery site.
At some point prior to 21 May 2020, the tribunal was told, T&L took the decision that face masks should always be worn at this site by all staff as a safety precaution to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
All visitors to the site were issued with facemasks at the gatehouse.
Mr Kubilius was seen, in his cab, without a face covering although he had worn a mask when working outside the vehicle.
He refused a request to put the mask on, claiming later: “My cab is my home. When I leaving my cab I wear mask and first it’s not the law.”
However, he was banned from returning to the T&L site and subsequently dismissed on the ground that a deliberate refusal to comply with a health and safety instruction was a “serious breach”.
The driver’s lack of remorse in his disciplinary hearing was an important factor, his site manager said.
The tribunal decided that “a reasonable employer might have concluded that this instance of misconduct merited a warning rather than summary dismissal” but went on to state that the decision fell within the range of reasonable responses.
It recognised that the driver’s continued insistence that he had done nothing wrong had caused his site manager to reasonably lose confidence in his ability to work with clients.
Mr Kubilius’ claim of unfair dismissal was accordingly dismissed. The full text of the ruling can be found at GOV.UK.