Adviser sacked for drunken client abuse wins court battle

A businesswoman accused of abusing a client that she berated for not drinking enough has been awarded nearly £25,000 compensation after winning a two-year fight against her former employer.

Amanda Daughters was sacked from Aqua Financial Solutions, a company she founded, in March 2010 for gross misconduct at an after-work meeting.

At a two-day Tribunal in West Croydon in May the financial adviser was said to have become so inebriated at the Avalon Pub in Balham that she brought Emily Pennington to tears.

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It was also claimed she used the c-word in reference to Ms Pennington’s partner during the incident in January 2010 and revealed confidential information, before ringing her boss Carolyn Bennett to admit she had “fucked up”.

Ms Daughters, then managing director, admitted behaving unprofessionally and e-mailed an apology, which was immediately accepted, the following day.

But she insisted the incident was not the true reason she was fired and sued the company in June 2010 for unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

A tribunal originally ruled in favour of Aqua, but a successful appeal earned Ms Daughters a fresh hearing, which was held in May of this year.

After two months of deliberation, Judge Gill Sage, sitting in south London, decided her claim was “well-founded”.

She described the investigation into the incident as “thoroughly inadequate” and “fundamentally flawed”.

She also criticised the firm’s disciplinary process, conducted by company secretary Brian Soulby and operations director Chris Jones.

“They took less than 10 minutes to consider the evidence and reach a decision to dismiss the claimant,” she added.

“There was no evidence the claimant had breached Ms Bennett’s confidentiality. There was no evidence the claimant had committed an act of misconduct and certainly no evidence of gross misconduct.”

The judge also noted the delay in bringing disciplinary proceedings and Ms Bennett’s first inclination to give Ms Daughters nothing more than a verbal warning.

The judge said: “Ms Bennett and Mr Jones knew of the incident by the end of the first weekend. However, they took no steps to investigate timeously or to take witness statements from anyone until March.

“The respondent, even on knowing the details of the incident, chose not to summarily dismiss the claimant.”

On that basis, she said she believed Ms Daughters had been dismissed not solely for her conduct on January 22, 2010, but for her “subsequent attitude” to Ms Bennett, who called her “the weakest link” at a meeting on January 24.

She concluded: “Had a fair hearing been conducted, the claimant may not have found herself dismissed.”

During the course of the two-day tribunal, Judge Sage heard evidence from Mr Soulsby, who argued Miss Daughters should have acted more responsibly.

He also claimed she had tried to “water down” the allegations against her and that no other sanction was feasible.

Mr Jones and Ms Bennett also gave testimony, but the judge found inconsistencies in their accounts.