Alyn Williams, previously chef patron of his Michelin-starred eponymous restaurant at The Westbury hotel in London, has won his wrongful dismissal case against his former employer.
Williams announced he would be taking legal action in 2019 after being dismissed for gross misconduct without notice or compensation. He launched an official complaint on 31 January 2020 after the hotel rejected his appeal against the decision.
Williams said he had been sacked after hosting a private party for friends at the restaurant when it had been closed to the public.
According to the tribunal document, this event took place at lunchtime on 28 July 2019 and was captured on CCTV. The footage showed Williams setting up an improvised football goal in the main restaurant area using two restaurant chairs and a net he brought with him before starting to cook.
Two young boys were recorded playing with a soft ball and on occasion kicking it against the wall and ceiling. The footage also showed one of the boys drinking from a Tabasco sauce bottle, while the other took sugar cubes from bowls laid out for breakfast on 14 occasions. Members of Williams’ party also came into the kitchen to watch him cook, although they did not take part themselves.
It was stated that neither the boys nor the other members of Williams’ party caused any damage to the restaurant.
Williams was informed in October 2019 that he had been dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct “on the allegations that the use of the restaurant and kitchen was unauthorised, he allowed children to play in the restaurant and touch company goods, and non-members of staff to access the kitchen and to use the company property.”
The documents show that Williams had held similar events on 61 separate occasions, and because of a prior arrangement and permission, had not needed to inform the general manager of his plans. However, due to a recent management change, this was no longer the case, something presiding judge P Klimov accepted had not been made clear to Williams.
Williams, who was hired in 2010, argued that his conduct was not the real reason for his dismissal. He claimed that it was either due to direct instructions from owner of The Westbury Azad Cola, or because the hotel had decided to cut costs.
Judge Klimov sided with Williams.
“Having considered all the evidence and heard the parties’ submissions I find that the respondent failed to show that the decision to dismiss the claimant was for a reason related to his conduct,” Judge Klimov wrote. “I find the decision to dismiss was not within the range of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer. I am not satisfied that the respondent genuinely considered that the claimant’s conduct was gross misconduct, it failed to conduct a reasonable and fair investigation to enable it to come to that conclusion, and it failed to consider alternative sanctions. It failed to take into account the claimant’s clean disciplinary record and his exemplary service. I find that the respondent did not adopt a fair procedure. The outcome was predetermined, and the entire disciplinary process was a ‘side show’.”
However, while agreeing that Williams had been unfairly dismissed, the judge said his conduct was “culpable” and contributed to his dismissal by 30%.
“I find it went beyond the scope of his permission to use the restaurant to host private events, it was disrespectful and caused offence to the owners of the restaurant,” the judge concluded. “The claimant admits that it was “silly”. He also admits that he did not see children drinking Tabasco sauce or picking up sugar cubes and accepts that he would have stopped them if he had.”
Williams was seeking compensation and an uplift of 25%. His remuneration was determined at a later hearing which is yet to be published.