Driving examiner who overdosed on Red Bull given £40,000 after sacking

Driving test examiner, 62, who overdosed on Red Bull after drinking ‘a couple’ of large cans before his shift is awarded £40,000 after tribunal rules he was unfairly sacked

  • Alan Leslie, 62,  drank so much of the energy drink he overdosed on caffeine
  • The former police officer ended up in hospital with ‘intense abdominal pains’
  • He told bosses he had been drinking Red Bull as he was having trouble sleeping 
  • A veteran of the Falklands War, he suffers from anxiety, depression and PTSD 
  • An judge said he was unfairly sacked and was discriminated due to his disability 

A driving test examiner who overdosed on Red Bull after drinking ‘a couple’ of large cans before his shift has been award £40,000 after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly sacked. 

Alan Leslie ended up in hospital suffering from ‘intense abdominal pains’ after drinking so much of the energy drink he overdosed on caffeine. 

The 62-year-old, a Falklands veteran and former police officer, was having trouble sleeping and was spooked by a near-miss on a roundabout so he began buying heaps of the caffeinated drink.

He told his bosses at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) that he was having a ‘couple of large cans’ before each shift and had ‘plenty’ of Red Bull stocked up.

But, after he finished a shift he had to go to hospital for ‘overdosing on caffeine’ and was not released until 3.30am the next day.

Driving test examiner Alan Leslie, 62, had to be treated at A&E after downing the energy drink over two days left him suffering ‘intense abdominal pains’ (file photo)

An employment tribunal said his Red Bull bingeing was ‘not wise’.

The hearing was told Mr Leslie was in the Royal Navy for five years as a young man. 

He served in the Falklands conflict and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.

After that he served in Sussex Police for 25 years but he had to retire on ill health grounds due to his anxiety, depression and PTSD.

From 2007 to 2010 he was self-employed as an Approved Driving Instructor. 

Then for the next five years he worked as a court usher at Lewes Crown Court in Lewes, East Sussex, where he received a commendation for ‘tackling and detaining a dangerous prisoner who escaped from the dock’.

Finally he joined the DVSA as a driving examiner in Burgess Hill, East Sussex, in October 2015.

In November 2017 he rowed with bosses and was relocated to Hastings after he complained he was ‘openly bullied’ at a test centre, the tribunal heard.

He claimed two female colleagues ‘humiliated’ him by ridiculing a manoeuvre he did during a test.

His mental health worsened and he believed he was subjected to a ‘prolonged and pernicious campaign of ostracism, a campaign which threatened his health and safety’.

Over the course of his employment, Mr Leslie had multiple periods of absence due to sickness as a result of his mental health.

In August 2018, he suffered anxiety after a performance review, leading to his Red Bull episode.

Mr Leslie was ‘livid’ he had not been recognised as having done a good job during this review, despite his statistics being ‘extremely close to the average’.

A tribunal report said: ‘His mental health was also badly affected by this exchange. He was having more trouble sleeping.

‘He lost concentration on his way to work and reacted late for a roundabout.. It was a near-miss.

‘He telephoned [line manager Nicola McLaren] to let her know that he was worried about being so tired.’

Ms McLaren suggested he go back to occupational health for an assessment.

Mr Leslie replied: ‘My concern at the moment is the next two days. Places to stop are minimal. I’ll buy plenty of Red Bull this evening and be sure to have a couple of large cans before I set out each day.’

The tribunal report continued: ‘That did not prove a wise approach.

‘After work, after only two more days of work, he had intense abdominal pains and had to go to A&E, which he left at 3.30 am.

The ex-police officer was having trouble sleeping and spooked by a near-miss on a roundabout so he began buying heaps of the caffeinated drink (file photo)

‘They told him that it was down to an overdose of caffeine. The root of the problem, once again, was his determination to avoid taking any time off work and so put his job at risk.’

Mr Leslie’s absences continued and bosses grew fed up particularly with his refusal to stop bringing up old grievances with the way he had been treated.

While off sick he completed a Wellbeing Action Plan, setting out the changes he wanted in rather emotive terms, stating: ‘Being treated as a sentient and relevant human being.’

He was declared medically fit to work and told bosses he was eager to return, however he was sacked in May 2019, with bosses claiming he would not put the past behind him despite agreeing to do so.

Employment Judge Eoin Fowell ruled Mr Leslie was unfairly sacked and was discriminated due to his disability.

Judge Fowell said: ‘The whole approach and reasoning justifying the dismissal were misguided, with its excessive focus on this issue of putting the past behind him.

‘The focus by the agency on his moving on from previous events, and their concern that he will not let them go and will continue to argue and absorb management time, perhaps causing further absences, appear to amount to a decision to dismiss squarely as a result of these effects.’

Mr Leslie, who lost other claims of discrimination and harassment, was awarded £39,180.99 in compensation, including more than £14,000 for ‘injury to feelings’.

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