Museum manager wins unfair dismissal case

In this case, the claimant was a senior manager, earning six figures who was dismissed for demanding a £500,000 bonus. The museum is family run and has 3 directors and the claimant was in a romantic relationship with one of the directors. The tribunal heard that the business relationship broke down when the long-term romantic relationship broke down.

The break-up was so sour that the family decided to take back a dog that the director had been given, leaving her devastated. The employment tribunal described this as ‘an act of maliciousness’. The tribunal ruled although the claimant was not entitled to the £500,000 bonus, the directors had acted unfairly by not providing an opportunity to hear her grievance.

The tribunal heard that the claimant’s salary increased from £54,000 to £120,000 over a 3 year period as the family were ‘very happy’ with her work. But the claimant believed that she was also paid for additional duties by the director she was in a relationship with for helping the family, including renovation of their property, babysitting and dog-sitting.

At the employment tribunal, the directors suggested that the claimant was being unreasonable, stating that she was money orientated. The Employment Judge concluded that, whilst the director was not entitled to the bonus she was unfairly dismissed, as the directors failed to let her explain why she thought she was entitled to the bonus. There was no attempt to conduct any process in circumstances where it was clearly reasonable to do so.

Compensation has yet to be determined. This is a very clear example of the need for employer’s to treat all staff fairly, despite personal relationships – and this example could prove to be very costly!

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