An estate agent who was subjected to a year of his bosses ambushing him and ‘making life difficult’ has won a £30,000 payout.
Chris Williams was described as a ‘conscientious and diligent employee’ who eventually ended up heading Stow Brothers’ property management department.
But after four ‘relatively happy years’ at the east London agency, everything changed between Mr Williams and his employers, a tribunal found.
In May 2019, a tenant was allowed to move into a property without the necessary paperwork and did not pay rent, forcing the company to compensate the landlord.
Company director Andrew Goad asked Mr Williams to ‘create’ the missing paperwork required to make an insurance claim covering the cost of this compensation but he refused, the panel heard.
Over the next 12 months, Mr Goad sought to ‘make life difficult for Mr Williams, criticising him in front of others and portraying him as incompetent.’
During this period, Mr Williams was the only employee not given a pay rise and he claimed his bosses deliberately did not invite him to an awards ceremony.
When Mr Williams signed off sick from work with stress in February 2020, his departure was nothing ‘other than welcome’ to his boss, the tribunal found.
He was then placed on furlough, during the first lockdown, and was the only employee who remained under the scheme by the end of the year.
In an email sent during this period, Mr Goad wrote ‘this employee’s time is up’ and that he was looking to ‘move forward’ without him.
He also wrote: ‘We always knew it would be tricky to pin him (Mr Williams) down on something.
‘Let’s hope the fear that he might have to return to the office and face up to his colleagues is enough for him to buckle.’
At the end of 2020, Mr Williams was subjected to disciplinary hearings, after being accused of deleting emails from his computer.
The panel found this was a ‘false trail’ designed to create a pretence for dismissal and described a disciplinary hearing as an ‘ambush’.
Mr Williams also accused his bosses of being homophobic when they made comments about whether a colleague was safe sharing a room with him on a staff Christmas trip to Paris in 2019.
Similar jibes led to Mr Williams pulling out of a trip to Barcelona in 2017.
In January 2020, Mr Goad responded to a meeting request with ‘I’m free’, in reference to the theatrically camp character Mr Humphries in the classic 70s sitcom Are You Being Served?.
While the panel found that all these comments were ‘naturally offensive’, they determined Mr Williams was discriminated against for his refusal to do as Mr Goad had asked in 2019 and not because of his sexuality.
After Mr Williams was eventually fired in February 2021, he went on to sue his employers for unfair dismissal, workplace harassment and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The tribunal dismissed the discrimination claims but upheld his claim of unfair dismissal and awarded him a total of £30, 891 in compensation.
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