Project manager wins wrongful dismissal claim after failing to complete work while on leave

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Makbool Javaid, partner – Simons Muirhead & Burton

April 12, 2022





In the case of Mr Canneaux v Land Science Limited, the employer is a company which provides testing and advice on soil engineering and brownfield projects. At the time of Mr. Canneaux’s dismissal, it had approximately 18 employees. It had very limited administrative resources and did not even have an internal HR advisor.

Mr. Canneaux’s employment began in February 2016. He was employed as a project manager. Mr. Toms, the managing director, had a long-standing dissatisfaction with Mr. Canneaux. He had a habit of engaging in inappropriate behavior such as performing stunts in an old car at a client’s premises. It is a scrap car, but which nevertheless belonged to the client and which Mr. Canneaux was not authorized to use. The stunts involved driving the car up a makeshift ramp at high speed to make it jump and driving the car through a makeshift wall of tires stacked higher and wider than the car.

Mr. Canneaux was surly at work. He wasn’t happy there and he made it evident through his demeanor and presentation. He sometimes said inappropriate things to his colleagues, such as calling them “latecomers” or fat people. He also engaged in “laddish” behavior. On one occasion, Mr. Canneaux brought a ball which he had found in working order.

After the company was asked to make cuts, Mr Toms finding out that Mr Canneaux had not completed his work after being made redundant, he fired him. The independent engineer has now successfully sued the company to employment judge Daniel Dyal, concluding he had “no hesitation” in concluding that the dismissal was unfair. Judge Dyal said: “In my view, some (not all) of Mr Toms’ frustration relates to the fact [Mr Canneaux] no longer worked once he was furloughed.

“Although it is true that [Land Science Limited] opened a disciplinary investigation into [Mr Canneaux] and used the language of gross misconduct among other things to describe it, in my view it was basically leverage. He wanted to put [him] in a position where taking a layoff seemed like a good option. That would make him more likely to leave quietly…

“There were elements of blameworthy conduct in his past behavior in the workplace…The procedure adopted to obtain his dismissal lacked any semblance of procedural fairness.”

A reparations hearing will be held to decide the amount of compensation that will be paid to him.

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