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Loughborough University warden dismissed for ‘aggressive’ texts wins award

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Mr B Sobnack v Loughborough University a Physics lecturer has been awarded £15,000 for unfair dismissal. Dr Binoy Sobnack started work at Loughborough University as a physics lecturer in 1999, and in 2002 took up an ancillary role as a warden of a students’ halls of residence. It was in this ancillary role that two colleagues raised complaints against Sobnack for his manner of communication.

The university’s head of legal services carried out a formal investigation in response to the complaint, but in her report said she had “not been able to identify sufficient evidence to support an allegation of bullying and harassment by [Sobnack], in particular with reference to the basis of the complaint”.

In October 2019, another sub-warden, Ms Doma, made a complaint to the university’s HR team about Sobnack alleging that Sobnack’s behaviour and communication style was “aggressive and confrontational”.

The head of student services, Dr Manuel Alonso, decided that he was going to dismiss Mr Sobnack from his role of warden. Alonso arranged a meeting with Sobnack and gave him a term’s notice. The letter of dismissal made no reference to a right of appeal.

In his ruling, Judge Adkinson said: “It never even occurred to [Alonso] that most of the allegations made by Mr Henry and Ms Chang were found not to be proven,” and that the allegations by Doma “were just that – allegations: there had not been so much as a beginning of an investigation to ascertain their veracity or accuracy”.

However, Sobnack’s basic award was reduced by 25 per cent because of his own contribution to his dismissal. The judge described Sobnack’s message to Doma as “brusque, blunt and unnecessarily aggressive in tone”.

Sobnack won a basic award of £4,129.38 and a compensatory award of £10,299.84.

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