Mr Rochford, a sales lead with Senior Vice President status, had been unable to work for almost a year due to a back condition. Occupational Health (OH) recommended a phased return to work. On this basis, when Mr Rochford came back from sick leave his employer did not allow him to return to his previous role and reduced his duties, however his pay remained the same. He was also not told when this situation was likely to change.
Mr Rochford subsequently refused to do any work and was dismissed by his employer for gross misconduct. He brought various claims in the Employment Tribunal (ET) including unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and wrongful dismissal.
In the first instance, the ET found that Mr Rochford's demotion followed by a failure to indicate when he would return to his full duties, amounted to discrimination arising from disability.
The ET also found that his dismissal was procedurally unfair. However his refusal to do work which was within the scope of his contractual duties and which he was fit to do, whilst on full pay and despite a number of warnings, had constituted gross misconduct. This would therefore limit any compensation to an award for procedural unfairness.
Mr Rochford appealed against the finding that he had been guilty of gross misconduct to both the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), and then Court of Appeal, which dismissed his appeal. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal emphasised that "it is not the law than an employee who is the victim of a wrong can in all circumstances simply refuse to do any further work unless and until that wrong is remedied".