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Can An Employee Be Dismissed Without Notice For Disclosing Confidential Information?

Comment from Brabners TEAM Legal Service Provider - In Farnan v Sunderland Association Football Club Ltd [2015] the High Court dismissed the Claimant’s claim for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract, and found that the employer was right to dismiss the Claimant without notice for disclosing confidential information.

The Claimant worked as International and National Marketing Director for Sunderland Football Club. The facts of the case are complex, but the Claimant was alleged to have breached confidence in relation to a number of incidents which included sending confidential information regarding sponsorship deal bids to various private email addresses of his wife. It was also alleged that the Claimant had sent a lewd email and made derogatory comments. The Claimant was suspended for gross misconduct, and was later summarily dismissed without notice.

The Claimant claimed damages for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract for failure to pay a bonus. In relation to the wrongful dismissal claim, the Claimant argued that he sent the confidential information to his wife’s email addresses for administrative support. However the Court found that he ‘banked’ the information as he wanted the information to be available in the event that he was involved in future litigation with the football club regarding his job or bonus. The Court held that the Claimant had no authorisation from his employer to do this, and that doing so amounted to a serious breach of his contract. Due to this outcome, and a number of other incidents of confidential information disclosure which also amounted to breach, the employer was entitled to dismiss the Claimant without notice.

The Court criticised the football Club for aspects of its case against the Claimant. They noted that lewd comments made by the Claimant, and derogatory comments made about the CEO, were not gross misconduct in the context of other incidents that had been tolerated by the football Club.