Evan Glyn Williams was employed by Ken Bates as a technical director with Leeds United FC from 2006. He was on a salary of £200,000 per year, terminable on 12 months’ notice. On 23 July 2013 he was given 12 months’ notice of termination, pursuant to the contract. This arose as part of a redundancy exercise. However, it subsequently came to light that, in March 2008, Mr Williams had used the Club’s email system to send an email with pornographic images attached to a male friend at another football club, Mr Dennis Wise. Photographs included “the fans”, “pictures from the club house, the shower” and included numerous images of female genitalia. As a result, on 30 July 2013, he was dismissed for gross misconduct, without further payments.
Following the summary dismissal it came to light that Mr Williams had sent the same email to a junior female employee at the Club and another male friend at another club, Mr Gus Poyet. In resisting Mr Williams’ claim the Club sought to rely on this additional information that had come to light following the dismissal.
Mr Williams contended that the conduct, while inappropriate, was not sufficient to justify summary dismissal and claimed the balance of his unpaid salary and other benefits.
The case was heard by Mr Justice Lewis, sitting in the High Court, on 9 to 11 February. Relying on the case of Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company v Ansell (1888) he held that the Club could rely on evidence that only came to light subsequent to the dismissal. The conduct amounted to a breach of the duty of trust and confidence between employer and employee and was a sufficiently serious breach as to amount to a repudiation of the contract by Mr Williams. He was in a senior position and the images were capable of causing offence. Sending them to a junior employee could have left the Club exposed to a claim for harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as well as damage to the Club’s reputation. the claim was therefore dismissed.