Leeds United entitled to sack employee over obscene emails
Leeds United Football Club has won a legal dispute involving an employee who was first selected for redundancy but then summarily dismissed after it was discovered that he had sent out obscene emails several years earlier.
The case concerned the club’s former technical director Evan Williams. Mr Williams was made redundant in July 2013. A dispute arose as to the terms of his contract. Mr Williams claimed he was entitled to notice pay and benefits totalling about £200,000. The club insisted the figure was much lower, in keeping with its general employment terms.
The club said that shortly after notice of termination was given, it discovered that Mr Williams had used its email system in March 2008 to forward pornographic images to a friend at another club. Mr Williams was summarily dismissed – that is, without pay or pay in lieu of notice.
Some months afterwards, the club said it discovered that Mr Williams had also forwarded the pornographic images to a junior female employee.
Mr Williams took legal action claiming damages for wrongful termination of his contract.
The club contended that Mr Williams’ conduct in sending the emails amounted to gross misconduct, entitling it to dismiss him without paying the notice pay he sought.
The High Court ruled in favour of the club. The judge, Mr Justice Lewis, said: “The conduct of the Claimant (Mr Williams) on 28 March 2008 in sending obscene and pornographic e-mails via the Club's e-mail system to a junior, female employee and two male friends at other clubs was a sufficiently serious breach of the duty of implied trust and confidence as to amount to a repudiation of the contract.
“The Club was entitled to rely upon that conduct as justifying the summary dismissal of the Claimant on 30 July 2013. The claim is therefore dismissed.”
Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.