A Scottish Government agency employee pictured bound to a chair and gagged at work has lost a bid for more than £500,000 in compensation.
DeeAnn Fitzpatrick worked at the Marine Scotland office in Scrabster, Caithness, where she claimed to be a victim of “bullying” and “inappropriate behaviour”.
Ms Fitzpatrick claimed she had been “restrained” before being taped to a chair and told it was a lesson “to keep her mouth shut or suffer the consequences”.
But a forensics expert told an employment tribunal that a photo of Ms Fitzpatrick taped to a chair in a room in the office with another piece of tape placed over her mouth was taken on August 10, 2009, and not on December 16, 2010, as she had alleged.
The photo went viral after being shared on social media during the MeToo movement in 2018.
Ms Fitzpatrick said her abuse was the result of her whistleblowing about the toxic environment in the Marine Scotland office.
The 52-year-old was fired by the government agency for gross misconduct, including lying about the date of the incident and forging emails to bolster her case.
Judge Alexander Kemp, who led the tribunal, found that Marine Scotland was entitled to fire Ms Fitzpatrick as she had been dishonest about the incident.
He said: “We concluded from all the evidence before us that she had been dishonest and not simply mistaken.
“We concluded that those emails and the date of the incident were so closely related that if the date of the photograph was not as the claimant alleged, her dishonesty in relation to the claims she made in those emails did follow from that.”
Judge Kemp found that the was “a level of dishonesty” sufficient to justify terminating Ms Fitzpatrick’s contract.
However, the tribunal raised concerns about the culture of the Scrabster office, including the incident depicted in the photograph that the judge said was “far beyond the pale”.
“Nothing in our judgment should be taken as condoning the behaviours of those involved to any extent,” he said.
“The claimant had the perception that she had been the victim of a bullying culture for a very long period.
“Whilst we have made the findings that we have, not all that she said in evidence was, we considered, unreliable or untrue. Some of the behaviours at the office were entirely wrong.
“It was not a kindergarten but a government office charged with enforcing the law.”
The tribunal was told the chair incident was described by one of the men involved as “high jinks” and “having a laugh”.
The tribunal found that there was a culture of unprofessional behaviour at the Scrabster office that included “putting ice down clothing, taping someone who had fallen asleep to his chair, placing tape on the beard of another member of staff, pouring shredded paper over a member of staff, throwing or launching paper projectiles, using a pen casing as a ‘peashooter’ and sending pieces of paper or parts of a Sellotape dispenser towards the claimant, and similar”.