Recruiter accused of being 'playground bully' wins tribunal

A recruiter accused of behaving like a ‘playground bully’ has won her claim for unfair dismissal after she was sacked for gross misconduct. Vicky Wileman a Recruitment Manager at Leicester employment agency, Lancaster & Duke, was dismissed in September 2016.

James Weaver, one of the agency’s Directors, told the court he had to speak to Wileman on several occasions about offensive behaviour, and following a conversation with ACAS, he believed that Wileman’s actions could have been classified as bullying and harassment.

Leicester Employment Tribunal heard that an email sent by an ex-employee after Wileman’s eventual firing described her as “quite toxic” and “behaving like a playground bully”- CIPD reports.

Employment Judge Clark, who oversaw the case, criticised the small agency for not raising concerns with Wileman formally before her dismissal. She described the two directors as not having any “meaningful past experience of managing employees and particularly so in respect of managing performance or disciplinary matters".

Around a month before Wileman was dismissed, Weaver issued her with a final verbal warning. An incident which fuelled a discussion about Wileman's behaviour, followed an employee resignation. Wileman spoke with colleague, Jayne Thomas, who also happened to be a friend, about how Thomas was struggling with her job performance, telling Wileman she was not enjoying work. Wileman allegedly responded by questioning whether Thomas would be better suited for another role.

Shortly after the conversation, Thomas resigned and the conversation she had with Wileman was raised. Weaver and his fellow management team started to discuss Wileman’s future with the company, with the main concerns raised being Wileman’s personality. They came to the decision that her behaviour amounted to gross misconduct and she should be dismissed.

“I recognise how a small employer with inexperienced Directors might prefer to overlook matters and fail to address problems at the time, and I take that into account as far as it goes,” Clark said. “However, there comes a point where even the smallest of employers must deal with issues and the size of an employer does not absolve it from the obligation to act reasonably in doing so.”

Wileman has been awarded £7,684.34 in damages. She could not be reached for comment.

Weaver said: “After taking legal advice from a top employment law barrister, we are very confident that mistakes in law have been made and an appeal will follow.”

Emma Gross, Solicitor at SA Law, added: “When dealing with difficult employees, employers must record their concerns, take notes and above all conduct a fair and reasonable investigation. In the absence of the above, a dismissal may be considered fair, but not reasonable.”

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