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Breach of trust and confidence decision awards hotel the largest cost given by any UK tribunal

An Employment Tribunal has awarded Millennium & Copthorne Hotels £432,000 for its costs following a claim brought by its former senior vice president. It is believed to be the highest costs award made by a UK employment tribunal.

The hotel succeeding in proving that the employee who brought the claims was “duplicitous” and acted in a way that undermined the trust and confidence between himself and his employer.

Chee Hwee Tan worked at the hotel as senior vice president of global procurement. He was dismissed by redundancy which was deemed by the ET as fair. Disgruntled by this decision, Mr Tan, who is gay and of Chinese Singaporean ethnicity, brought claims for unfair dismissal, automatically unfair dismissal, age discrimination, race discrimination, discrimination because of sexual orientation, victimisation, harassment, whistleblowing detriment and unlawful deductions from wages.

At the trial it came to light that during his employment, Chee Hwee Tan covertly recorded many hours of conversations and meetings with his colleagues. He made a covert recording of a consultation he had with an occupational health doctor and saved hundreds of WhatsApp messages between colleagues as an attempt to prove discrimination claims. A huge 3000-page bundle was provided to the Tribunal showing the lengths that Chee Hwee Tan had taken to implicate his colleagues.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant’s redundancy had been fair. It dismissed all of his claims as it held he had pursued them unreasonably, he was “duplicitous” and there was no evidence of harassment or discrimination. He had tried to bend the reality of situations including recording messages with colleagues who the Tribunal found were intimate friends with him. It commented that had it not found his dismissal for redundancy fair; the hotel would have been justified in dismissing him as soon as it discovered he had been recording conversations with colleagues. The ET stated that this behaviour had “undermined the trust and confidence” between the hotel and himself. The size of the costs award made against the Claimant reflected the employee’s fixation on wrongly implicating his colleagues by any means necessary and the time incurred by the hotel’s representatives in reviewing the resulting materials.

Comments

Costs awards in the employment tribunal are very much the exception to the rule, with the average awarded in the region of £2,400.

Whist the facts of this case are unique, it nevertheless serves as a warning to claimants seeking to advance or orchestrate spurious claims. If such claims are clearly unfounded and a Respondent incurs significant costs defending them, costs can follow and could be significant.

If you have any queries on redundancy, unfair dismissals or any other HR queries, please contact our employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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