Man caught drinking on Zoom who told bosses to ‘deal with it’ sacked

  • Doug Andersen lost his ‘vexatious’ appeal and was ordered to pay £9,965

A £65,000-a-year engineer who was caught drinking beer on a Zoom call has told his boss to ‘deal with it’, an employment tribunal has heard.

Doug Andersen made the defiant remark to his company’s chief operating officer when he was called out for drinking during the virtual meeting.

The privately trained development engineer then failed to contribute to the meeting, laughed “cynically” during it and eventually turned off his camera, the court heard.

Mr Andersen, in his 20s, received a final written warning from world-renowned RHEON Laboratories following the incident.

Six months later he found himself in hot water again because of his attitude and was sacked by the London-based energy lab, which is linked to NASA and Imperial College London .

Doug Andersen told his boss to ‘deal with it’ after he was caught drinking on a Zoom call
Engineer was sacked from RHEON Laboratories and pleaded wrongful dismissal

Now, after trying to sue RHEON Labs for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal in London, Mr Andersen has lost his case.

He was even ordered to pay nearly £10,000 to cover the tech company’s legal costs after he argued he brought the case “vexatiously”.

Mr Andersen, educated at the £13,700-a-year Merchant Taylors’ School in Crosby, Merseyside, started working at RHEON Labs in October 2017.

The university graduate, who studied mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, was summoned to meetings in 2020 to address his behavior.

He had set goals “to be more of a team player, not a superhero lone wolf”, to be “more professional, more organized” and to “say more thank you and work on empathy “.

His goals also included “minimizing sulking”, “respecting all co-workers”, not “fighting” with co-workers, and “having a consistent upbeat demeanor in the office, no big emotional swings”.

In January 2021, he received his first warning after bosses raised concerns about his “persistent behavioral weaknesses and poor attitude to work”.

He asked RHEON founder Dan Plant, “I’m about to be fired and what triggered this now?”

In March 2021 – while some lockdown laws were still in place – he was caught drinking alcohol while working remotely.

“On the afternoon of Friday, March 5, 2021, an incident occurred during a company Zoom meeting,” the court ruling said.

‘M. Andersen was observed drinking beer during the call and was challenged by [RHEON Chief Operating Officer] Tim Brown.

“I find Mr. Brown’s testimony that Mr. Andersen responded along the lines of ‘dealing with it’ to be a reliable account…

“I also accept Mr. Brown’s testimony that Mr. Andersen exhibited other inappropriate behavior at the meeting, in particular not contributing to issues on which he would be expected to contribute, being cynical in laughing and, in ultimately, turning off his camera.”

Mr Andersen was ordered to pay £9,965 in costs to cover RHEON’s legal costs
He previously said he liked working at RHEON because they liked “going to the pub”.

In a LinkedIn blog post written before the incident, Mr Andersen said he liked the company because “we don’t mind going to the pub”.

Mr Andersen received a final written warning for the Zoom incident.

Six months later, in September 2021, Mr Andersen was suspended for his bad attitude after university students on internships complained.

The students said Mr Andersen, who was supposed to be their mentor, was ‘quite disappointing’, showed a ‘lack of attention’, was ‘rude and negative’ and that they felt ‘unsupported’.

RHEON Labs reviewed the misconduct and his previous warnings and dismissed him, with his final day in November 2021.

At South London Employment Tribunal, he argued he had been unfairly sacked because bosses saw him as a ‘bad leaver’.

His case has been closed.

The panel said his “behavioral weaknesses” had already been pointed out and said RHEON “showed good faith” in appointing an outside coach to help him.

The judge said his warnings were “valid”, his drinking on a Zoom call was “inappropriate” and ruled his dismissal was fair.

He must pay £9,965 in fees to cover RHEON’s legal costs.

He now earns a salary of £65,000 a year, with his LinkedIn showing he works for engineering firm D3O in London.

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