Leeds United Lose Employment Tribunal Case

As a follow up to my recent article regarding the Employment Tribunal case Leeds United were facing, the verdict from the Tribunal has now been released.

Leeds United lost both claims against them, namely unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. Lucy Ward, who worked for the Club for 17 years as their Education & Welfare Officer, claimed unfair dismissal when she was sacked from the Club in July 2015.

She claimed to have suffered awful treatment and discrimination as a result of her relationship with Neil Redfearn, former Manager and Academy boss at the Club.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Ward said “It’s bitter sweet but I’m really pleased. I’ve spent 17 years building up a really good reputation at Leeds for it to be destroyed by the current ownership of Leeds, of this wonderful club.”

“It’s a club I love dearly. I have enjoyed all my time here. It’s really a bitter sweet moment – it’s a victory for me but really difficult to describe.”

“I think now my name was absolutely cleared. There were a lot of things said about me that weren’t true and I think the judge said that.”

The Employment Judge (and accompanying panel as the case included a claim for discrimination) clearly favoured the evidence of Ms Ward and stated he felt she was a “truthful and credible” witness. He went on to state that he felt Adam Pearson, former Leeds United Executive Director was not a “credible or reliable” witness and that Club Secretary Stuart Hayton, who had denied there was a “culture of discrimination” at Elland Road, was also found to have given evidence that was not deemed to be “entirely credible”.

Employment Judge Stephen Keevash reportedly said “We conclude that this dismissal was unfair and that there was a gross unreasonable breach of the ACAS code of conduct.”

“We find it extraordinary that this respondent had no basic awareness of the ACAS code or what it contained and that it failed to comply with what are regarded as basic principles.”

The case will now be listed for a remedy hearing when the Judge will decide the level of compensation to be awarded to Ms Ward. If Leeds United want to keep the amount of compensation out of the public domain, they may try and settle the matter before the remedy hearing and include a confidentiality clause in any agreed terms. They may well be advised to do this given the that the Judges’ comments would potentially point towards Ms Ward gaining an increase in the level of damages awarded to her due to the Judge’s reference to breach of the ACAS code. The Tribunal has the power to uplift any award by up to 25% if it believes a company has failed to follow the code, and given the Judge’s comments that there was a “gross unreasonable breach” of the code, it would appear highly likely Ms Ward received at least some increase on this basis.

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