A solicitor whose employment was transferred to another firm without notice or consultation has succeeded in a claim for constructive dismissal.
Employment Judge Beyzade, sitting in the London Central tribunal, found that Eduardo Grazioli’s claim against London firm Charles Gregory Solicitors was well-founded and ordered that the respondent pay him more than £32,000.
Grazioli had worked for regulated firm Rider Support Services Limited since 2007, initially as a paralegal and later a personal injury solicitor. But when it became clear the firm could no longer operate under its existing ownership, staff were required to move physical files to the Charles Gregory offices to allow for the transfer of the business.
The tribunal found that Grazioli's previous firm’s approach to the handover and to his alleged conduct issues had been ‘confusing and troubling’ and he was not consulted in relation to the contract of employment sent to him. There was no evidence that Charles Gregory met Grazioli to investigate what the terms of contract with Rider Support Services were, or to discuss any changes to those terms.
On the same day that he was told his employment was transferred to Charles Gregory, he was sent an email advising him of the outcome of a disciplinary investigation. This alleged that he had been absent without leave on two days, had refused to work in the office and was physically aggressive. Grazioli was suspended and only paid a fraction of his salary for that month, prompting his union representative to advise that a grievance was being prepared and requesting details of a disciplinary hearing.
The original date for the hearing was put back and then clashed with pre-arranged annual leave which Grazioli had booked to go on a cruise. The firm said that the hearing would proceed as planned and that failure to attend would lead to further disciplinary action. His union representative called for the date to be rearranged as a matter of fairness, and it was eventually put back again.
The tribunal rejected allegations made by Grazioli that his previous firm tried to demote him to a claims handler and that he was asked to give advice that was not in clients’ best interests. It was also not accepted that Grazioli was placed under pressure to work without a practising certificate, although he did suffer anxiety and distress as he was not kept informed about his employment status. He was increasingly concerned he was being pushed out without redundancy pay and no-one from Charles Gregory confirmed what was happening. The tribunal found this was a fundamental breach of his contract and the implied duty of trust and confidence, and his subsequent resignation was in response to these breaches.
The judge added: ‘The respondent had, by their earlier actions, fractured the employment relationship with the claimant and they had done nothing to try to repair it.
‘The respondent simply wanted the claimant to put it all behind him and return to work immediately without understanding that the claimant had lost trust in his employer.’
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