A solicitor who was dismissed and reported to the police after calling someone ‘a filthy man with a nasty, vile mouth’ and a ‘small fish in a big pond full of white men’ has lost her employment claim.
Rosemond Edwards alleged that she was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed from Parabis Law LLP – trading as Cogent Law – in April 2012.
The situation arose after Edwards, who has Tobagonian nationality, sent an ‘extremely offensive and intemperate’ email to a man in relation to the purchase of a plot of land in Tobago in a private capacity.
Writing at one o'clock in the morning, she stated: ‘You are a filthy man with a nasty, vile mouth...Thank God you were born white because you would have had no purpose in life. You are a small fish in a big pond full of white men and you are a tiny, tiny man in my eyes. You may impress your Indian wife by declaring yourself as the only white Tobagonian but in my eyes you amount to one big fat zero.’ Other references were made to the recipient’s nationality and his wife.
Edwards was subsequently reported to her firm, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Sussex Police, who served a so-called ‘police information notice’. The employment tribunal found it was reasonable to conclude the email was 'rude, offensive and amounted to an act of harassment on racial grounds'.
Appealing the tribunal’s judgment, Edwards claimed that the true reason for her dismissal was not the email but the firm’s concern about the breakdown in relations between her and her colleagues.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. In judgment, Lord Justice Underhill wrote: ‘Nothing in the new material comes close to undermining the finding, wholly unsurprising in itself, that the respondents dismissed the appellant because she had written an email in frankly disgraceful terms which called her temperament and judgment seriously into question and reflected on the reputation of the firm.’