Scottish TV exec fired for calling boss a ‘big fat thing’

Tribunal awards wrongful dismissal damages, but refuses to reinstate her
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A Scottish television executive was awarded damages for wrongful dismissal, but an employment tribunal in the United Kingdom stopped short of reinstating her after she was fired because her boss found insulting e-mails she wrote.

Agnes Wilkie, 50, had been employed with Scottish Television for 24 years and was a producer and head of features for the network. The controversy erupted in the fall of 2005 when her managing director stumbled upon an e-mail to his personal assistant in which Wilkie referred to him as a “big fat thing”. Wilkie offered to apologize but was suspended with pay. After investigation, more e-mails were discovered referring to her boss by other insulting names. She was fired in January 2006 for “a number of acts of gross misconduct” including insulting behaviour and improper use of e-mail.

The tribunal found the network did not give Wilkie a sufficient opportunity to apologize given her previously problem-free record and length of service. It ruled she was unfairly dismissed.

However, the tribunal agreed the Wilkie’s behaviour was “reprehensible” and her behaviour was contrary to the network’s policies regarding the treatment of colleagues. Accordingly, it ruled she was not entitled to reinstatement to her position. Her compensation award was also significantly reduced from about $227,000 Cdn to about $38,000 Cdn.

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