NHS executive who complained colleagues 'breathed on her' wins £19k

NHS executive who was fired after complaining her colleagues ‘kept breathing on her’ and ‘making distracting noises’ wins £19,000 payout for unfair dismissal

  • Gifty Poku has won £19,551 in compensation after she was unfairly dismissed
  • She complained her colleagues kept making ‘distracting noises’ near her desk
  • Mrs Poku was accused of ‘regularly’ blowing air back at members of staff 
  • She was sacked but a tribunal found that she had been unfairly dismissal

An NHS executive who was unfairly dismissed for complaining that her colleagues kept ‘breathing on her’ has been given a £19,551 payout.

Gifty Poku claimed members of staff were exhaling heavily near her, and was in turn accused of ‘regularly and repeatedly’ blowing air back at them. 

She complained that her colleagues were making ‘distracting noises’ near her desk before she was eventually was sacked for allegedly misconduct.   

Mrs Poku successfully sued Barts Health NHS Trust for unfair dismissal, and has now been awarded more than £19,000 in compensation.

At the time of the incidents, Mrs Poku was employed as deputy head of corporate accounts at the east London trust.

NHS executive Gifty Poku, who was unfairly dismissed for complaining that her colleagues kept ‘breathing on her’, has been given a £19,551 payout 

An employment tribunal heard that throughout her three years working for the trust, Mrs Poku would often complain about colleagues standing by her desk and talking.

On one occasion she got into an argument with an accountant after she accused them of making ‘distracting noises’.

Eventually, one frustrated member of staff, Tasneema Chowdhury, complained to senior managers that Mrs Poku had ‘mental health issues’.

Before she was dismissed by the NHS Trust, Mrs Poku was given her first written warning about the way she was behaving with other colleagues.

She was alleged to have ‘regularly and unreasonably’ accused people of breathing on her and in response ‘used her mouth to blow air toward them’.

The trust also investigated whether she had told members of staff they were ‘giving off negative energy’.

Mrs Poku took a ‘plea bargain’ to bring the investigation to a close and accepted a written warning.

The tribunal heard that a short while later, in November 2019, following another disciplinary investigation, Mrs Poku was dismissed for alleged misconduct relating to the way ‘she interacted with her colleagues’.

Mrs Poku successfully sued Barts Health NHS Trust in London for unfair dismissal, and has now been awarded £19,551 in compensation. Pictured, St Bartholomew’s Hospital

The second investigation alleged Mrs Poku called a team member a liar, failed to follow instructions and behaved inappropriately towards Miss Chowdhury.

Mrs Poku was also accused of telling a woman that she had never had any problems with her previous managers who were white, but she had a problem with her because she was black.

A disciplinary panel concluded that all the allegations against her were proved and decided she should be dismissed immediately.

At the tribunal in Poplar, east London, employment Judge Stephen Knight, examined the NHS Trust’s investigation and gave his own findings.

He said that although it was ‘unreasonable’ for Mrs Poku to accuse people of breathing on her it was not done with any ‘malice’.

Looking at the second investigation he concluded that it would have been ‘absurd’ for the Trust to suggest Mrs Poku, who herself is black, had a problem with black people.

Giving his conclusion, Employment Judge Knight, said that each of Mrs Poku’s acts of alleged misconduct were ‘minor’.

He added: ‘[The Trust] took no useful, meaningful, and concerted steps to improve the relationships between [Mrs Poku] and her colleagues between the time of the first ever complaints and the date of the her dismissal.’

He concluded that the Trust did not have reasonable grounds to believe Mrs Poku had committed misconduct and therefore ruled she was unfairly dismissed.

A remedy hearing earlier this month awarded Mrs Poku £19, 751.88 in total.

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