A managing director at Carlsberg was fired after organising an "alcohol-fuelled" tour of a brewery during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, an employment tribunal has heard.
Martin Entwistle lost his job after inviting eight of his friends for drinks in the tap room on 6 August 2020 and then giving them a late-night 'guided tour' of the London brewery which descended into "boisterous, alcohol-fuelled horseplay".
Their gathering was caught on CCTV, and Entwistle was told he was being sacked for gross misconduct after his behaviour was "unbecoming" of a managing director.
Entwistle, who now runs online retailer All About The Beer, brought claims of unfair dismissal and breach of contract against Carlsberg, claiming enforced rules were put across on email as "nothing more" than "guidelines".
But an employment tribunal has dismissed his claims — saying the regulations were "clear and unmistakable" as mandatory rules and not voluntary guidance, and were being enforced to protect a "vulnerable" member of staff.
The tribunal heard Entwistle worked as the managing director of Danish brewing company Carlsberg's London Fields Brewery (LFB) and tap room in Hackney, north London.
The 'mandatory directives', enforced in June, included 'no one' being allowed to enter the brewery area 'unless there is an emergency'.
The rules added: "This includes when the Brew Team are not at work, and should generally be the case regardless."
The tribunal noted the CCTV footage showed no one was wearing face masks, and that "at least one" of the party had engaged in "boisterous, alcohol-fuelled horseplay" whilst in the brewery.
After the party, a number of staff raised concerns about their managing director's conduct, and a disciplinary investigation began.
The investigation found Entwistle had "demonstrated ignorance" of social distancing guidelines and 'failed to control the behaviour' of his friends.
But despite accepting he "had not set a good example", Entwistle disagreed that his conduct was 'unbecoming' of the lead of the LFB operation.
The tribunal also heard he challenged the "validity" of the COVID measures sent in the earlier email, arguing they were simply "guidance and nothing more".
Entwistle sought to "justify" his entry to the brewery by saying he knew the vulnerable staff who had been shielding for three months prior to her return wouldn't be at work for another four days.
In September 2020 he was sacked for his "extremely irresponsible" act of gross misconduct, and told he had committed a "very serious error of judgment".
Entwistle appealed the decision, arguing that while it had been "wrong" to take a group into the brewery it had not caused "any danger or risk to any employee or visitors".
His appeal was rejected and he brought claims of unfair dismissal and breach of contract to an employment tribunal.
However, employment judge Claude Forde dismissed his claims and concluded that the Covid rules regarding the brewhouse were "unmistakably" mandatory rules.
"Staff working at LFB on the night in question for whom Entwistle had responsibility were alarmed and concerned at his actions; such that they raised their concerns with those that manage him," he said.
"I find that the acts of Entwistle while in the brewery and in the days after amount to a clear and substantial breach of the contract of employment.
"His decision to contravene the rule regarding unauthorised entry to the brewery, his failure to have regard to the health and safety of his fellow employees and his attempts to post-rationalise his action after the event are all serious matters.
"In other words, his actions — as I have identified individually and cumulatively — amounted to gross misconduct."
The London Fields Brewery was shut down by Carlsberg Marston's Brewing Company in December last year after it decided to sell the brand.