Source: Finextra Research
In a rare case of the biter bit, City IT consultancy Coleman Bennett International is suing one if its salesmen for loss of earnings.
Family man Terence Hunter, 41, faces personal and financial ruin after a two-year fling with his boss’s personal assistant, 31-year-old Natalie Bawden-Brian. In a writ lodged at the High Court in London, CBI claims a distracted Hunter cost the firm £469,327 through blunders in billing and contractual failings.
Coleman Bennett managing director, Daragh Coleman says he was forced to carry out many of Hunter's duties during the two-year affair. The writ takes into account the number of personal calls, text messages and e-mails exchanged between Hunter and Bawden-Brian during office hours.
The suit says the six-figure salary salesman was in breach of contract by failing to report a personal relationship with another member of staff.
Hunter quit the firm in September 2003 and failed to win a compensation claim at an earlier industrial tribunal. CBI is counter-suing for £250,000 in lost income. The firm - which provides IT design, consultancy and project management services to clients including Abbey, Rabobank, NatWest, Bank of America and ABN Amro – says it recovered half of its estimated losses from clients.
CBI’s action comes at a time of increasing litigation between employers and former employees. A recent spate of high-profile sexual harassment and unfair dismissal claims have unfavourably exposed the inner workings of a number of prominent financial market firms. While workers stand to make big pay-offs if an appeal is successful, companies are left with little but a barrage of bad publicity and a hefty legal bill.
CBI may have valid grounds to pursue its claim and certainly it will be cheered to the hilt by human resources professionals in the City if successful. But, by using an office romance as justification for the pursuit of a former employee through the courts, the company also runs the risk of appearing vindictive. As ever, the only winners in this kind of case are the lawyers.