Articles - Melanie Tether success: no compensation for groundsmen who crowdfunded unfair dismissal complaints

Employment & Discrimination - Melanie Tether

Melanie Tether successful in Harrison and Cook v Superstadium Management

The claimants in this case were two groundsmen formerly employed at the KCOM Stadium in Hull who had been dismissed on grounds of misconduct. Darryl Cook was dismissed because he had been working as a kitman for Hull FC during his working hours for SMC and Mark Harrison, his line manager, was dismissed for allowing him to do so.

The claimants brought complaints of unfair dismissal in the Hull employment tribunal, using crowdfunding to pay their legal fees. They secured considerable publicity for their claims in the press and via social media, spuriously framing them as “a fight for justice”.

SMC conceded that the dismissals were unfair because of a procedural error but argued that the tribunal should not make any award of compensation because both claimants were guilty of serious breaches of contract.

Employment Judge Rita Rogerson decided to reduce the claimants’ basic and compensatory awards by 100% because of their blameworthy conduct. She found that Darryl Cook had been working for Hull FC during his working hours for SMC and that, if his conduct had not come to light when it did, he would have continued to do. She also concluded that Mr Cook had been dishonest in his explanations to SMC and in his evidence to the employment tribunal.

As to Mr Harrison, the judge found that he had knowingly permitted Mr Cook to carry out work for Hull FC when he should have been working for SMC and that he had subsequently attempted to cover up Mr Cook’s conduct. She observed that there were a number of discrepancies in Mr Harrison’s account of events and that he had been unable to explain why his story had changed.

The outcome of this case could give pause for thought to anyone contemplating crowdfunding a legal claim without having any knowledge of its merits.

SMC was represented by Melanie Tether of Old Square Chambers and Ed Jenneson, Head of Employment at Rollits LLP.

The decision has received media interest:

http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/smc-speak-out-dishonest-sacked-947786

Please click here for the full judgment.

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