Amanda Daughters reduced a woman client to tears after demanding why she was only drinking spritzers and dragging the client’s partner outside for a cigarette even though he didn’t smoke.
Exactly what happened at the Avalon pub, in Balham, south London, is hotly disputed by Miss Daughters who – whilst agreeing she was “a bit hazy” after having “quite a bit” to drink – swiftly apologised and denies anything she did justified her summary dismissal from her job.
Mrs Daughters, founder and former MD of Balham-based Aqua Financial Solutions Ltd, was given her marching orders in 2010 and had her unfair dismissal claim against the company rejected by an employment tribunal in October that year.
However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has now ordered a re-hearing of her case, ruling that the “clear dispute” over what happened at the Avalon on the Friday night of January 22 2010 must be further investigated and resolved.
Judge William Birtles said Aqua’s chairman, Carolyn Bennett, received a call from Ms Daughters at about 8pm that evening, saying she had “fu**ed up again” and offended a client.
Miss Daughters sent an apologetic email to the client early the next morning – saying “I hope you can forgive me”. And the woman, although castigating her for her “inappropriate and unprofessional” behaviour, was understanding and emailed back, “let’s just move on”.
However, the “very upset and vociferous” client and her partner later spent an hour and a half complaining to Ms Bennett, who was “very embarrassed and angry”.
The client told Ms Bennett it was “apparent she had already been drinking” when Miss Daughters arrived at the bar for a meeting to discuss financial advice.
The woman said Miss Daughters became “more inebriated” as the evening wore on and at one point “dragged” her partner outside to have a cigarette, even though he was a non-smoker.
The client also reported that Miss Daughters had called her partner “a c**t” which, although it was said jokingly, he found shocking and offensive.
Judge Birtles added: “When the client did not want to carry on drinking at the same pace as her, Miss Daughters berated her for not wanting to carry on drinking and demanded to know why she was drinking spritzers.
“The client became so upset that she began to cry”.
Miss Daughters accepted she had offended the client and “it was probably not sensible to drink in client meetings”. She said the details of what happened were “inevitably a bit hazy”.
She argued the client, with whom she said she had been drinking for four hours, had “become over-sensitive through drink” and that the incident was “not unduly serious” as the woman had accepted her apology.
However, Ms Bennett “viewed the matter extremely seriously” and Judge Birtles said disciplinary action was launched, culminating in Miss Daughters’ dismissal on grounds of alleged “gross misconduct”.
A south London employment tribunal concluded in October 2010 that it had “no hesitation in concluding that Miss Daughters’ conduct justified summary dismissal without notice”.
However, overturning that ruling, Judge Birtles said: “In this case there was a clear dispute on the evidence as to what had taken place in the Avalon bar on the evening of January 22 2010.
“The Employment Tribunal made no attempt to reconcile these differing versions”, said the judge, who added that the Tribunal had failed to explain why it considered Miss Daughters’ dismissal justified and “within the range of reasonable responses”.
“Essentially, the tribunal made an error of law in saying that there was no conflict of fact between what Miss Daughters said had occurred on the night of January 22 2010 and the view taken by Aqua.
“These were serious differences of fact that the tribunal did not attempt to properly resolve”, ruled the judge.
Allowing Miss Daughters’ appeal, Judge Birtles sent her unfair dismissal claim back to a fresh employment tribunal for a re-hearing, a date for which has yet to be set.