Firefighter Who Was Sacked After Testing Positive For Cocaine Wins £9,000 Payout
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A veteran firefighter with over 30 years of service has been awarded over £9,000 in damages after he was sacked just a year before retiring for allegedly failing a drugs test.
Marcus Headley was dismissed from his job at Walthamstow Fire Station in London in 2018 after a routine drugs test claimed he had tested positive for cocaine - despite Headley being adamant he had never touched the drug in his life.
The crew manager was steadfast in his belief that he had never taken the substance before, and claimed his recent diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes may have influenced the positive result.
Headley even arranged his own private drugs test after suggesting that he may have been spiked with the substance, although that also ended up coming back positive.
However, despite maintaining his innocence throughout the entire affair, judge David Massarella rejected his claim for wrongful dismissal at an employment tribune in East London, claiming that Headley had presented an 'unacceptable level of risk' within his workplace and that the levels of cocaine found in his system during the test suggested it was more likely than not that he had taken the drug.
Yet despite this Headley eventually ended up victorious, winning his claim of unfair dismissal after a tribunal judge ruled there were procedural flaws in his sacking, and awarded him £9,454 in compensation after winning the claim against the London Fire Commissioner on a technicality.
But this all changed in July 2018 - just over a year before he was set to retire - after his test came back with a 'non-negative' result for traces of benzoylecgonine, a known component of cocaine.
Headley visited his GP two days later and insisted he had never taken illegal drugs. Along with being treated for depression he was also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which he later insisted was a key catalyst in affecting his drugs tests and cited evidence he had found on the internet and a conversation he had with an online doctor as proof.
At the tribunal, Massarella dismissed his claim of wrongful dismissal but said 'it is highly regrettable that his distinguished career in the fire service ended in these circumstances'.
The judge also claimed there was no medical evidence to suggest the positive test could be the result of anything other than cocaine, and that Headley had failed to provide any concrete details to prove he had been spiked with the substance.
“On the balance of probabilities, we have concluded that the tests were positive because he had taken cocaine,” the judge ruled.
However, Headley eventually won his claim of unfair dismissal on a technicality as bosses proceeded with his disciplinary while he was ill and had raised a grievance, and because they postponed his appeal.