An highly paid oil trader, who was sacked because he was said to be not in a fit state for work after a heavy night out during a business trip to Singapore, has failed in his High Court wrongful dismissal claim after a judge described his case as ‘ludicrous’ and said that it should never have been advanced.
The trader was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct after missing a series of crucial meetings on the day after his night on the town. He had admitted being out until 4.30am and, although he insisted he drank no more than others, his behaviour was said to be the latest in a series of alcohol-related incidents.
Throwing out the trader’s claim, and ordering him to pay six-figure legal costs on the indemnity basis, the Court ruled, “This is about as abnormal a case of this type that one could imagine. There was no conceivable justification for any claim being made at any point.”
Pointing out that he worked in an industry where a decimal point in the wrong place could result in huge losses, his employers argued that his habitual drinking could not be tolerated. He had been offered professional help in beating his problem but was said not to have co-operated.
Describing the trader’s attendance record as ‘appalling’ – having been absent or late at least 20 per cent of the time during his service in London – the employers, who had spent ‘the best part of £400,000’ defending the case, had viewed his claim as ‘a slap in the face’. His failure to attend the meetings in Singapore had been the final straw.
The trader claimed that he was not drunk but had stayed in bed as he had consumed too much and had deliberately chosen not to attend at least one of the meetings, which were said not have been compulsory. However, the Court found that he had taken no steps to limit his alcohol consumption or to seek help, but had simply continued on his existing path, paying no regard to the adverse impact on his employers.
The judge concluded, “If, which I doubt, he did not simply sleep through the meetings which he missed, but consciously decided not to attend them, that in itself amounted to repudiatory breach of the contract which his employers were entitled to accept by dismissing him summarily.”