A former finance worker who broke company rules by drinking wine during a client meeting has had his claim for dismissal compensation refused.
The Employment Tribunal heard that Client Relationship Manager André Julian Thebault had worked for Homebuyer Financial Services for over nine years when he abruptly quit last year, claiming the decision was down to the conduct of his employer, who had previously been a “good friend."
He sought damages for his effective dismissal, breach of contract and unpaid holiday pay.
In a hearing last month, the Tribunal was told how the relationship breakdown started after the company’s Managing Director bumped into Mr Thebault as he was taking a bottle of wine and glasses into a meeting – despite a strict “no alcohol policy."
Pictured: The company, which is based in Union Street, had a strict "no alcohol" policy.
To avoid embarrassment in front of clients, however, he reluctantly told Mr Thebault to be discreet, which Mr Thebault took as “express permission” to drink the wine.
His boss asked for a meeting regarding what was described as the “totally unacceptable behaviour” via email the following day, but Mr Thebault refused on the basis that it was a waste of their time. A brief and heated discussion followed, resulting in Mr Thebault being suspended.
It later emerged that during what the Tribunal termed ‘The Wine Incident’, Mr Thebault had his clients sign a form when he did not have permission to do so.
This, according to independent advisers, was a regulatory breach, and grounds for the Jersey Financial Services Commission to take action against the firm. A Compliance Officer at the firm disputed this, however.
In November 2017, Mr Thebault was told he would have to attend a formal disciplinary hearing during what was described as a “fraught” meeting. Mr Thebault said he should have been given the opportunity to be accompanied by a representative and that failure to do so amounted to a breach of the “implied duty of mutual trust and confidence."
Pictured: Mr Thebault was not allowed to sign "fact-find" forms.
He was told to leave the office, but his boss later tried to resolve matters informally, deciding to stop at Mr Thebault’s house to “make amends."
the Tribunal heard that Mr Thebault refused to open the door as his boss repeatedly knocked and called through the letterbox asking to talk to him, later calling the Police, who termed the boss’s presence as “inappropriate."
A disciplinary hearing finally went ahead in January 2018, during which a final warning to Mr Thebault was issued. He described the delay between the day the letter was written and sent as a “deliberate ploy” to stop him from appealing as it meant he missed the five-day deadline. When given another opportunity to appeal, he did not take up the offer.
In March, Mr Thebault issued a formal grievance against the Managing Director, but claimed the process was unfair because it involved the same advisor that had attended his disciplinary hearing.
When this was rejected, Mr Thebault resigned, stating this was "due to loss of trust and confidence in the company, its management and the way that I have been dealt with."
Pictured: The company issued a final warning against Mr Thebault in January 2018.
Tribunal chairman Hilary Griffin found that Homebuyer Financial Services Limited hadn’t breached the “implied duty of trust and confidence” between employer and employee at any stage.
However, she did consider the Managing Director’s “prolonged attendance” at his house to be conduct that seriously damaged or destroyed the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between the pair.
She concluded that Mr Thebault had neither been constructively or wrongfully dismissed. She also dismissed a claim that he should have been paid a bonus in October 2017, as his regulatory breach entitled the employer to withhold it.
However, Mrs Griffin agreed that the company owed Mr Thebault holiday pay for the period he was absent on sick leave and ordered them to pay £1,310.34.
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