BT engineer who called driver a 'silly cow' loses dismissal claim
10th April 2022

BT engineer who was sacked after angrily calling a female driver a ‘silly cow’ and ‘squaring up to her’ during a fit of road rage loses unfair dismissal claim

  • Colin Aldred, a BT engineer, was fired for calling a female motorist a ‘silly cow’
  • He had been reprimanded for a prior road rage incident at a doctor at a KFC
  • When he was sacked in April 2020, he told his boss to stick his job ‘up your a***’

A BT engineer was sacked after he angrily called a female motorist a ‘silly cow’ then ‘squared up to her’ in a road rage incident, a tribunal heard.

Colin Aldred shouted a ‘torrent of foul language’ at the woman following a near-miss, for which she apologised for immediately, while driving his work BT Openreach van.

The shocked woman complained to Openreach about Aldred after the middle-aged engineer got out of his car to ‘square up to me in quite an aggressive manner’.

Aldred had already been given a written warning by BT over his ‘road rage’ – after he got out his car at a KFC drive-thru and ‘aggressively’ charged at an NHS doctor.

His incident back in 2017 involved him using foul language towards someone after soiling himself.

After verbally abusing the female driver, he was investigated and sacked – having told his boss ‘stick my job up your a****’.

Colin Aldred, a BT engineer from the North West, was sacked by Openreach after a road rage incident in which he called a female driver a ‘silly cow’ and then squared up to her (stock image)

Aldred did win a claim of unfair dismissal from Openreach as he was not given a recording of a witness statement before he was sacked, but did not receive any compensation (file photo)

Now, after Aldred sued Openreach over his sacking, a judge has ruled there was ‘absolutely no excuse’ abusing the woman and that the foul-mouthed engineer was lucky to ‘keep his job for so long’.

Aldred did win one claim of unfair dismissal on a technicality as there was a fault in Openreach’s sacking procedure – but he won’t be awarded any compensation.

Openreach, part of BT, is responsible for maintaining telephone lines which connect British homes and businesses to the national broadband and telephone network.

Aldred, a customer service engineer, worked for Openreach from April 2007 until April 2020.

The Manchester Employment Tribunal heard Aldred, based in the North West, first landed himself in trouble in February 2017 when an Openreach customer complained about him.

In October 2017, at Penketh telephone exchange, Cheshire, Aldred angrily swore at a staff member.

A tribunal report said: ‘Aldred told the tribunal that he was desperate for the toilet that day and had in fact soiled himself and in frustration had sworn at the member of staff’, a tribunal report said.

‘The [staff member], who had refused Aldred access, had done so because he had not provided the correct security pass.’

In an earlier road rage incident, Aldred shouted and swore at an NHS doctor, who had a child in the car, at a KFC drive-thru (stock image of KFC drive-thru)

In October 2018, Aldred ranted at a doctor.

The report said: ‘A member of the public who was a medical doctor in the NHS complained to Openreach about the behaviour of Aldred.

‘He gave a detailed account explaining that Aldred was behind the doctor at the drive-through when he beeped the horn of his vehicle and shouted expletives including ‘I haven’t got all fucking day’.

‘When the doctor asked the claimant to stop, he alleged the claimant became more aggressive.

‘The doctor got out of his vehicle to take a photograph of the number plate of Aldred’s vehicle.

‘He said Aldred then exited his vehicle and aggressively advanced toward the doctor shouting that if he had a problem, he should square up to him face to face.

‘The doctor had a young child in the front seat of the vehicle who was becoming distressed.’

Aldred was suspended and given a written warning, admitting that he shouted ‘I only have 45 minutes for lunch.’

In December 2019 he verbally abused the female driver.

The report said: ‘The member of the public alleged Aldred had been travelling at speed and almost ‘ripped off my door’.

‘She admitted she had not seen the van coming around the corner.

‘She put her hand up to apologise to the driver and was rewarded with a ‘torrent of foul language being shouted at me through the window’.

‘She then said that she walked around the corner to where the vehicle was parked, and a middle-aged man got out and began to ‘square up to me in quite an aggressive manner’.

‘She admitted to swearing at him in response to his manner.’

Aldred reported the near miss but failed to tell his boss about his offensive remark. He later admitted calling the woman a ‘silly cow’ but denied confronting her.

Aldred, who attended yearly training about how to treat the public with respect, was sacked in April 2020 but claimed it was ‘unfair’ at tribunal.

Employment Judge Katherine Ross said: ‘Even if he felt frustrated, Aldred should not have used offensive language in those circumstances.

‘There is absolutely no excuse for it. We find Aldred was 100% to blame.

‘We have had regard to the evidence which shows that he had been involved in a series of incidents during the course of his employment where he had behaved offensively towards members of the public, another employee and his manager.

‘A disinterested observer might consider that Aldred had been fortunate to keep his job for so long.’

Judge Ross said dismissal was a ‘reasonable response’ by Openreach, but that Aldred’s claim of unfair dismissal succeeded as he was not given a recording of a witness statement before he was sacked.

However, his compensation was reduced by 100% as he would have been sacked even if correct procedures were followed.

Aldred also brought claims of disability discrimination and harassment, alleging that he was discriminated against on grounds of his ‘stress and anxiety’, but they were thrown out.

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