Woman sacked for being too scared to answer emergency call-outs
A WOMAN was sacked from her job as a steward because she was too scared to answer late-night emergency call-outs to the secluded club where she worked.
Karen Seccombe, aged 48, pictured right, was sacked after she refused to answer every emergency at the isolated railway social club in Laira.
She told The Herald last night she was scared about the potential dangers of answering a call-out late at night alone and in an isolated area.
An employment tribunal found she would have been on call 'all day, every day', save for holidays and sickness.
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The panel ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and ordered the Great Western Railway Staff Association to pay her £18,466.80 in compensation.
The hearing in Exeter heard that Mrs Seccombe, from Estover, told club officials she was worried about attending the club late at night and alone.
She said after the case: "I'm relieved with this result. Over the last year I have had this hanging over me. I was sacked for gross misconduct as a result of my fears for my safety."
The hearing was told she refused to accept a club mobile phone which would mean she was always on call.
She had previously provided her home number as one of three people who would respond to the burglar alarm sounding.
The club had about 10 to 15 call-outs over the five years she had worked there.
The club suggested in February last year that one of her duties was to respond to every call-out.
The tribunal heard she was sacked for gross misconduct in May last year after both she and her union representative said she was worried about her safety.
The panel ruled it was 'not reasonable' for the club to believe she had committed gross misconduct.
It added: "She had raised genuine concerns about her health and safety, particularly as a lone worker late at night following alarm calls.
"She did not refuse to give her personal home telephone number to the alarm company, but had objected to the apparent imposition of a different system which, apart from holidays and sickness absence when she could turn the telephone off, would appear to have her on call, all-day every day."
The panel also concluded there was no proper investigation and an appeal was 'shambolic'.
It ruled: "Her dismissal does not appear to have been upheld by a majority of the appeal panel."
Mrs Seccombe told The Herald last night: "I was scared."
She said that the dangers of answering call-outs on her own came home to her on one particular night.
"It was about 3.30am and I was in a deep sleep when the security company phoned to say the alarm was going off.
"I only lived a five-minute walk away and I'm going into the club at this ridiculous hour, and it suddenly hit me.
"I think it would be wrong even for a man to have to go there on his own. It should be two people.
"The club is a big space. It's off the main road and you're isolated. Nobody would hear you.
"I was thinking, 'If there's a nutter or two in here there is nobody to help.
"Fortunately there wasn't anyone there.
"I feel I was sacked because I wouldn't conform."
Mrs Seccombe said: "Now my name has been cleared but I fear that the chances of finding a job with similar levels of responsibility and pay is now impossible."
She said: "I loved my job and I didn't have any problem with the customers.
"I'm relieved it's all over but it has still left me high and dry.
"The compensation is what I would have earned in the time since I was sacked. It doesn't compensate me for future loss of earnings."
She said she now worked at Comet but does fewer hours and is paid the minimum wage.
She thanked her union, the GMB, and her solicitors Thompsons.
Victoria Allum, from Thompsons, said: "The employer in this case should have dealt with Mrs Seccombe's concerns about attending the premises late at night."
Nobody from the Great Western Railway Staff Association was available for comment.