One act of abuse is sufficient to cause constructive, unfair dismissal

The General Manager at Menzies Logistics was constructively unfairly dismissed following a serious telling off in a group email from another senior manager, an employment tribunal has ruled.

The general manager for parcel logistics at Menzies Distribution resigned without notice after he lost faith in a grievance process investigating the conduct of the company’s chief financial officer (CFO). The CFO had emailed the General Manager and 15 other staff members which included the General Manager’s subordinates – blaming him for the company’s poor financial performance in Scotland. The Scottish performance was described as an “omnishambles” in the email.

The tribunal ruled that this email constituted a repudiatory breach of the General Manager’s employment contract. Importantly, it noted that a single incident of abuse was enough to find in favour of a claim of constructive unfair dismissal, and ordered Menzies Distribution to pay more than £14,000 in compensation and lost earnings and benefits.

The email is quoted as stating: “You are accountable for this omnishambles. And I want the numbers explained. There is no one else to point to. It is your voice and your voice alone.” The email had the effect of humiliating the General Manager in front of his colleagues, the tribunal heard and worse, it was sent to the employee when he was on annual leave.

The tribunal ruled that the email constituted a repudiatory breach of the General Manager’s contract. Menzies Distribution’s denied that the email amounted to bullying and stated that the tone of the email, while tough, was not bullying.

The tribunal judge stated that “There is no doubt that a single incident of abuse, verbal or written, can found a claim for ‘constructive’ unfair dismissal.” Menzies was ordered to pay the General Manager the sum of £14,176.79 in compensation and lost earnings.

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