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Employee dismissed for sending three pornographic emails five years ago

2nd March, 2015

In Williams v Leeds United Football Club, the High Court held that Leeds United were entitled to summarily dismiss Mr Williams, who was a senior employee, after it was discovered he had sent three emails via the club’s e-mail system (one of which was to a junior, female colleague) containing pornographic material some five years earlier. His conduct was sufficiently serious for it to amount to a breach of the duty of trust and confidence

Mr Williams was dismissed by Leeds United on grounds of redundancy. However, during his notice period, the football club decided not to pay any further salary due to Mr Williams, and sought to validate their decision by actively seeking evidence of misconduct. The football club hired a forensic investigator who discovered the three obscene emails, which had been sent five years previously.

Despite the club committing an anticipatory breach of contract (not paying the salary due to Mr Williams) the High Court found that Leeds United were not prevented from summarily dismissing Mr Williams.

The nature of the images, the fact that it could amount to harassment of the female employee and the potential consequences to the club was sufficiently serious to amount to repudiatory conduct and therefore Mr Williams had not been wrongfully dismissed.

Please note that dismissing an employee for a reason other than one allowed by law (conduct, capability or qualification, redundancy, illegality or some other substantial reason) or without following a fair procedure, may lead to a claim for unfair dismissal.

Our employment law team includes solicitors with experience in football, and other sports, and regularly advise other law firms on such issues.

Dismissing an employee without giving the requisite period of notice can lead to a wrongful dismissal claim.

For further advice or guidance in relation to “problem employees”, please do not hesitate to contact Paul Bennett on email 01743 453 685 or [email protected]

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