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Judge: 'Autocratic' manager was unfairly dismissed

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams (File photograph)

A woman fired for her “autocratic” management style has had her unfair dismissal award slashed by the Supreme Court.

In a written judgment dated March 23, Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams upheld a finding that Marie-Josee Caesar was improperly dismissed by CG Insurance in 2018.

But the judge found the Employment Tribunal had acted beyond its powers by awarding her post-retirement health insurance and a “further severance award” on top of her unfair dismissal award.

The Court heard Ms Caesar was hired by CG Insurance in 1995 and by 2010 she had risen to the position of chief operating officer responsible for pensions.

But she was suspended from that post in January 2018 after allegations of serious misconduct were raised.

In a notice, the company said it was alleged Ms Caesar had shown a “distinct lack of respect for work colleagues and internal policies and procedures”.

An independent investigation found that she had created an “atmosphere of intimidation” and the investigator recommended that she be the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

Ms Caesar attended a disciplinary hearing in March 2018, and she was informed in writing that she would be summarily dismissed later that month.

She brought the matter to the Employment Tribunal, who found in July 2019 that she had been wrongfully dismissed.

The employment tribunal said: “There is no question that the complainant’s style of management was autocratic, but it is also evident that this style was either condoned by management or that management simply turned a blind eye to it.

“The former CEO is reported to have simply advised one witness to ’deal with it’.”

The tribunal also asked why management did not give Ms Caesar an opportunity for mediation or a chance to change her management approach.

In all the circumstances, the tribunal found that the behaviour did not amount to serious misconduct worthy of a summary dismissal.

Ms Caesar was awarded 26 weeks of wages, a bonus award and three months’ worth of wages in lieu of her contractual entitlement to notice of termination.

She was also granted a further severance award of 26 weeks of wages, along with post-retirement health insurance coverage for an indefinite period.

CG Insurance launched an appeal against to the Supreme Court, arguing that Ms Caesar was “plainly the cause of the toxic environment” and did not properly consider her conduct.

The firm also argued the tribunal was wrong in law to give Ms Caesar a further severance award and award her health coverage.

Ms Caesar also appealed the decision on the basis that she should have been awarded “substantial compensation” for lost wages up to her retirement age.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams found in favour of CG Insurance to the extent that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to award Ms Caesar the further severance or health insurance awards and dismissed Ms Caesar’s claims for further awards.

But the judge upheld the finding that Ms Caesar had been wrongfully dismissed.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “The tribunal were not satisfied that Ms Caesar’s management was proven to be anything beyond autocratic – ie domineering.

“In making this finding, the tribunal held CG Insurance responsible for its failure to provide Ms Caesar with the necessary training to bring about a reformed styled of management.

“In my judgment, these findings do not support a conclusion of contributory conduct.”

Mrs Justice Subair Williams set aside the further severance and health insurance awards, but upheld the rest.

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