A CALL centre manager has won her legal battle with mobile phone company EE after a judge ruled she was unfairly sacked when a worker was kicked in the head.

Employment tribunal judge Gerald Johnson found that bosses at the phone company's Darlington offices conducted a "wholly inadequate" investigation into Fay Hand's actions before the assault.

The judge also found that EE staff involved in her disciplinary case had embellished and exaggerated their evidence to the hearing.

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He added that the confusion shown by one EE boss in the witness box highlighted the "haphazard and unreasonable" approach taken by the company when dealing with Mrs Hand.

Last night, the 37-year-old mother of-two from Wynyard Village, near Stockton, who worked for EE and Orange for 17 years, welcomed the ruling.

She said: "I absolutely loved that job - it meant the world to me and I was devastated when I was dismissed.

"I hope that EE now reflects on this ruling and realises that it needs to improve the way it supports staff, and ensures its processes and polices are following correctly and fairly."

The hearing, which took place earlier this month at Teesside Magistrates' Court, was told that an investigation was launched after a call handler kicked another worker, Grant Potter, in the head as he was sitting at his desk, leaving him unconscious and needing hospital treatment.

The attacker later alleged that he had been provoked after being bullied by members of his team.

Mrs Hand was dismissed after bosses said she had not done enough to tackle the alleged bullying and harassment.

EE claimed that although Mrs Hand had asked a team leader to "sort out" pranks and horseplay among team members before the assault in October last year, she had failed to find out if the issues had been resolved.

However, Judge Johnson, who awarded Mrs Hand a five-figure sum in compensation, found that EE bosses had not examined what impact this supposed failure had caused.

The judge also found that even if it had conducted a proper investigation into Mrs Hand's role, any failure on her part would not have resulted in her dismissal.

He said: "The tribunal further found that the decision to dismiss the claimant was itself outside the range of reasonable responses, taking into account the claimant's age, length of service and previous unblemished record."

The judge added that it was more than likely there was an element of pre-judgement in Mrs Hand's case, with bosses having already made their mind up before the investigation into Mrs Hand's actions.

Earlier this week, Mr Potter told how he was also sacked following the incident and had subsequently suffered severe financial hardship.

EE did not respond to a request for a response to the ruling yesterday (Wednesday, August 27).