A tribunal judge has found against a Corby logistics firm that fired its warehouse boss after ‘fabricating’ a capability process against him.
The employment tribunal, the outcome of which was made public this week, found that Huisman International UK Ltd had unfairly dismissed their employee after 13 years of ‘devotion’.
The claimant, named in court documents as Mr Perry James, had been employed since 2004 at the Dutch firm’s base in Sondes Road. Mr James had run the depot - coordinating warehouse and transport activities.
In December 2017 Dutch bosses had a discussion about recruiting a new warehouse supervisor and Mr James began the recruitment process. But it then emerged that the Dutch side of the firm had hired their own supervisor, Tim Van Haren, who was known personally to one of the company managers, Mr Janssen.
Mr Van Haren would be commuting from Germany to Corby every week, staying in a hotel in the town while he was working there.
The tribunal judgement stated: “The claimant was surprised at this decision feeling it made no sense and certainly was not a cost saving.”
But from the moment Mr Van Haren arrived in Corby, Employment Judge Postle heard that there was ‘an atmosphere’.
When Mr James went on holiday in January 2018, he received a WhatsApp message from the firm managing director Mr Scholten, saying he would be visiting Corby on the day Mr James returned from his leave.
When he arrived at work at 6am on the Monday, Mr James found files relating to one of the firm’s customers had been removed from his desk and placed on the desk of Mr Van Haren.
When Mr Scholten arrived in the office at about 10am he asked him to follow him upstairs and said “this was not going to be a good conversation.
”The claimant was then advised he was no longer wanted,” and some paper was slid towards him.
”The claimant was informed this was a settlement agreement offer and that the claimant needed to obtain professional advice.”
Me James was given ten days to sign the agreement and told to leave now and not come back.
The tribunal, sitting in Bury St Edmunds, heard that Mr James has an ‘unblemished’ record and has got along well with the company owners previous to this incident.
The settlement agreement said that despite a year and a half of ‘intensive contact’ and ‘improvement projects,’ Mr Scholten did not think that Mr James was the right man for the job.
The document went on to say that if he did not agree to the settlement, Mr James would have to undergo performance management.
In a letter to his former employer, on February 16, Mr James said he was ‘utterly astounded by the decision after 13 years’ devotion to the company.’
He added that, despite assurances the situation would be kept quiet, the new manager had discussed the situation with people in Corby.
There was no reply to this letter but the company then asked Mr James to attend a poor performance meeting in the company’s Dutch offices on March 6. Mr James didn’t attend the meeting because he wanted to take further advice but he did take part in Skype meeting on March 19. No evidence was produced of any customer complaints.
”The allegations were clearly fabricated to try and back track over the dismissal,” said the court judgment.
After the hearing, Mr James again wrote to his employer. His letter said: “The disciplinary hearing was a complete travesty.
”It was clear these were trumped up charges to justify my potential removal.
”One of the major issues which had been raised was with regard to complaints by customers. Bear Janssen failed to produce any complaints from customers.”
At the March 19 meeting, Mr James said he was treated as if he were still an employee, but he was then only paid up until March 2.
He then resigned, telling his boss that it has been a ‘constructive dismissal’.
The judgement went on: “Unbelievably, on 23 March no doubt when the email had been received by the respondent, they purported to send the claimant a letter in which a final written warning was given.
Handing down his judgement, Judge Postle said that a ‘clear dismissal’ was taking place on February 12.
The judge added: “The implication is that thereafter, when the respondents realised they were in a bit of a muddle they purported to go through some sham capability process which was clearly fabricated in order to cover up the dismissal that had already taken place.
”The tribunal concludes clearly there was a dismissal and that dismissal was procedural and substantively unfair.”