WINTERVAL & SNOW LLP
Festive Claims Specialist
Personal Injury – Employment – PPI – Consumer Credit
“Where there’s grit there’s a writ”
The Santa Claus Group
The Santa Claus Building
St Nicholas Street
The North Pole
20th December 2011
MR BARRY CORDUROY
CLAIM FOR UNFAIR DISMISSAL
We act for Mr Barry Corduroy, a former employee of The Santa Claus Group (“the Group”). Mr Corduroy has instructed us to commence proceedings against the Group for unfair dismissal.
Mr Corduroy was employed by the Group in the capacity of Assistant Elf until 14th December. His duties involved, inter alia, toy making, present wrapping, stock picking, and carol singing.
On 1st December, Mr Corduroy was invited to a meeting with his supervisor, Mr Norman Grinch, and the head of HR, Mrs Barbara Blitzen. At that meeting, Mr Corduroy was informed that he was to be subject to disciplinary proceedings, on the grounds of poor performance, refusal to carry out reasonable instructions, and breach of confidence.
On 8th December, Mr Corduroy was invited to a further meeting with Mr Grinch and Mrs Blitzen. At that second meeting, he was informed by Mrs Blitzen that his employment was to be terminated with immediate effect. He was asked to hand in his security pass and pointy hat, and to leave the premises immediately.
It is Mr Corduroy’s contention that the allegations against him are demonstrably untrue and discriminatory, and that his dismissal on those grounds is therefore wholly unfair.
In particular, he responds to each of the allegations and intends to claim as follows:
1. Poor performance (1)
The allegation made against Mr Corduroy was that he failed to achieve the required level of quality and productivity in his role as Assistant Elf, and that he failed to improve in either respect despite being given additional coaching.
You will no doubt be aware that notwithstanding the description of his role, Mr Corduroy is not ethnically Elvish but is in fact a human. It is well known that humans lack certain magical skills that are characteristic of elves.
Despite this, Mr Corduory was subject in his work to the same targets as his Elvish colleagues in respect of toy-making and other tasks, despite lacking the magical skills necessary to achieve them.
It is our client’s contention that subjecting him to the same targets as his elvish colleagues, and disciplining him for failing to meet the same, amounted to unlawful discrimination on grounds of race.
2. Poor performance (2)
We are instructed that Mr Corduroy pointed out his disadvantage compared to his magical colleagues to his supervisor, Mr Grinch, on many occasions. Mr Corduory asked either for his targets to be relaxed or for technological aids to be provided to approximate the magical skills enjoyed by his colleagues.
Mr Grinch took no action in relation to these requests. Indeed, on several occasions documented by our client Mr Grinch told Mr Corduroy that if he felt unable to meet the required standard he should seek employment elsewhere.
Our client contends that his lack of magical skills amounts to a disability within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. The Group’s failure to either relax his targets or provide technological aids therefore amounted to a breach of the Group’s duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect of that disability.
3. Refusal to carry out reasonable instructions
Towards the end of November, Mr Corduroy was informed that he would be seconded to the Group’s Delivery Team during the period from 23rd December to 25th December inclusive. We understand that the function of this team is to effect the delivery, on an annual basis, of presents to various locations around the world on the evening of 24th December and the early morning of 25th December.
Mr Corduroy was reluctant to join the Delivery Team, because the work is physically demanding, involving as it does visits to upwards of 100 million households in the course of some 8 hours. It is also dangerous due to the speed of travel, the precarious nature of the various landing and take off areas, and the notoriously poor safety record of the Santa2000 Sleigh-Liner.
Mr Corduroy understandably felt that it would be more appropriate for the Delivery Team to be staffed entirely by elves, due to their aforementioned magical characteristics, and communicated this to Mr Grinch. Mr Grinch’s response was that Mr Corduory’s contract required him to undertake whatever duties were asked of him, at whatever location, and that he therefore had no choice in the matter.
It is Mr Corduroy’s contention that it is not reasonable for the relevant contractual provision to be interpreted and exercised in such a broad manner. It his further contention that the Group’s decision to do so is discriminatory for the reasons referred to at (1) above.
4. Breach of confidence
Mr Corduroy has for some time harboured doubts about the chief executive of the Group, Mr Santa Claus. We understand that Mr Claus is never seen at the premises of the Group, and that there is a persistent rumour circulating amongst the work force that he does not exist.
Given that the Group trades on the image of Mr Claus, and in particular his reputation as a kindly and beneficent old man, Mr Corduroy was understandably concerned that the children of the world are being misled by the Group’s advertising and other promotional activities. He attempted to raise this with Mr Grinch, but was rebuffed in dismissive terms.
This did not allay Mr Corduroy’s concerns, and he therefore contacted the Office of Fair Trading and the Advertising Standards Authority. It is our understanding that these organisations have written to the Group to request further information about its trading practices.
In the meeting of 1st December, Mrs Blitzen told Mr Corduroy that his action in contacting the aforementioned regulators was a breach of his contractual obligation of confidentiality to the Group. This was a major reason for his summary dismissal at the meeting of 8th December.
However, it is Mr Corduroy’s contention that in contacting the regulators he was making a protected disclosure within the meaning of section 43A of the Employment Rights Act 1996. That makes the Group’s decision to dismiss him unfair by virtue of section 103A of the 1996 Act.
On the basis of the foregoing, it is clear that The Santa Claus Group has unfairly dismissed our client and has unlawfully discriminated against him. We therefore invite your proposals for compensating him in respect of his loss of earnings, and for injury to feelings.
We look forward to hearing from you in due course, and in any event within 14 days of the date of this letter.
WINTERVAL & SNOW LLP