Sour Grapes

A 66 year old bus driver from Coventry has been dismissed after he was caught eating a grape whilst at the bus terminal on CCTV. A shocked Mr Shephard explained that he  expected to be disciplined in some way, but not to be dismissed.

Mr Shephard had had a heart bypass the previous year for which he was taking regular medication. The medication prescribed causes his mouth to become quite dry so he explained that he sometimes needs to take a sip of water or eat a grape. He had been driving buses for National Express for five years when he was dismissed following the CCTV capture two weeks ago. In his defence, he explained "I don't eat or drink while I am driving but I was just sat stationary at the bus terminus in Bedworth for a few minutes and took a grape to wet my mouth a bit.” There is a practice in place whereby drivers are forbidden from eating on the buses but Mr Shephard explained that the incident took place shortly after his prescribed lunch break. The bus was at the terminal and he had a few grapes left over from lunch. He continued: “rather than getting off the bus to eat the grape I just stayed sitting in the cabin.”

Mr Shephard is further dismayed by his employer's decision given that he had explained his circumstances to them with regard to his health condition. He feels that they have not accommodated him at all and said "they are just taking the rules to the next level."  The CCTV footage caught what looked like Mr Shephard eating a grape whilst the bus was leaving the terminal. However, he denies this saying that whilst he can't be sure of his every movement that day, he was probably still eating the same grape he had placed in his mouth before setting off. He thinks that he may have scratched his nose or mouth during chewing which would appear as though he has put another grape into his mouth whilst driving. Mr Shephard cannot understand why his former employers are making such a fuss over the 'incident' having explained that there were no passengers on the bus to see him anyway.

Although Mr Shephard had been the subject of a previous complaint a few weeks before the grape incident, his employers insist their decision to dismiss was based solely on this incident. Mr Shephard has launched an appeal against his dismissal which he hopes will be heard in the coming weeks. A spokesman for National Express noted that Mr Shephard was yet to fully exhaust their internal disciplinary process and as such cannot comment further at this point. However, they did stress that the company holds itself to the highest level of customers safety and care.

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