A former oil trader at a well-known natural resource company has lost his High Court claim for wrongful dismissal and has been ordered to pay substantial costs.
Mr Andrew Kearns, 38, was sacked by Glencore UK Limited in October 2010 after he failed to turn up to a series of business meetings on a business trip. The oil trader, who commenced employment with the company in January 2009, subsequently made a High Court claim for wrongful dismissal to attempt to gain damages for wages that would have otherwise accrued during his notice period.
The case came to the High Court in November 2013, with both Mr Kearns and current and former employees of Glencore giving evidence. The court heard that Mr Kearns – who earned an annual salary of £140,000 plus other benefits – was supposed to have attended a number of business meetings on 11 October 2013 but that he had gone out with colleagues drinking the day before until 4.30am on 11 October. He had then failed to turn up for the meetings that day and had instead spent the day in the pub. Glencore subsequently summarily dismissed him without paying his notice pay for gross misconduct. However, Mr Kearns claimed that he had not drunk to excess any more so than other employees and that the business meetings that had been held on 11 October had not required his compulsory attendance. He therefore felt that his dismissal was harsh.
Mr Cohen, representing Glencore at the High Court, said that Mr Kearns’s absence record was “appalling”, being late or absent for at least 20 per cent of his service in London. He further stated that Mr Kearns’ non-attendance at the business meeting was the “final straw” and that Glencore had no other option but to dismiss Mr Kearns as a result.
High Court Judge Richard Seymour QC, presiding over the case, ruled against Mr Kearns in the case, stating: “This claim was ludicrous – it should never have been advanced.” The Judge also stated that Mr Kearns’ claim for share options that he would otherwise have been paid was “hopeless” and that “… this is about as abnormal a case of this type that one could imagine. There was no conceivable justification for any claim being made at any point.” The Judge also ordered costs of £150,000 to be paid by Mr Kearns on an interim basis, with a further hearing to follow to determine what amount of costs Mr Kearns should be asked to pay.
Mr Kearns stated after the conclusion of the case: “I am disappointed naturally. The judge adopted a very legalistic approach as to whether or not I was wrongfully dismissed.” He went on to state: “I consider the judgement harsh given the surrounding context heard during proceedings and the clearly hostile feelings certain people within Glencore held for me being proven in pre-trial evidence disclosure.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment law solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “A point that Mr Kearns appears not to have appreciated from his comments on the case is that a claim for wrongful dismissal is simply a contractual claim and that, as a result, the fairness of the termination was not an issue. This distinction is extremely important – particularly when playing in the ‘high stakes’ world of the High Court.”
Redmans Solicitors are unfair dismissal solicitors and offer employment law advice to employees and employers
Please note that Redmans Solicitors were not in any way associated with this case