W, a senior employee, brought a claim for wrongful dismissal against his former employer, Leeds United Football Club. He had been dismissed on grounds of redundancy and was serving his notice period.
Within a week of being given notice, the Club summarily dismissed him on grounds of gross misconduct. It had discovered that 5 1/2 years earlier, he had forwarded an email containing pornographic material to a junior female employee, and two friends at other clubs.
The Club refused to pay him the balance of his notice pay which was £200,000.
Mr Justice Lewis, sitting in the High Court, dismissed W’s claim. It was clear that the club had intended to stop paying his notice pay before notice was served in breach of contract. It had forensic investigators actively looking for evidence of misconduct, but there was no evidence that they knew of the offensive email before the redundancy notice was given.
The sending of the email 5 1/2 years earlier was a breach of the duty of trust and confidence and was sufficiently serious to amount to repudiatory conduct. The Club was thus entitled to dismiss him without notice.
The Judge took into account the fact that W had potentially exposed the club to a discrimination claim.
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