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Perfumer loses unfair dismissal claim after sending ‘suspicious’ work emails to her personal account containing top secret perfume formulas

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Mrs M Massengo v CPL Aromas Ltd, CPL Aromas is a world leading fragrance house with headquarters in the UK. It is independent and family owned and creates fragrances for use in fine fragrance, personal care and household products. It is a very competitive market. With any fragrance house its only real intellectual property is its formulas for its fragrances and its costings of those formulas and fragrances.

Formulas contain the raw materials or ingredients that make up the fragrance along with the percentage of each of the raw materials that are included in the fragrance. This information is highly confidential and is tightly safeguarded. If a competitor got hold of this formula information, they would be able to replicate the perfume.

Madly Massengo sent a series of messages from her work system to a personal email account containing details of the company’s ‘only real intellectual property’ including materials, formulas and pricing.

Bosses at British-based CPL Aromas were horrified when they realised Ms Massengo’s emails meant they had ‘lost all control’ of the confidential information, the employment tribunal heard.

When she was quizzed by bosses, the French perfumer, who has a master’s degree in chemistry, Engineering, Aromatics and Perfumery from Montpellier University, claimed she sent emails to her personal account as she wanted to ‘work from home’.

But Ms Massengo, who was 39, was sacked for gross misconduct.

She then sued her employer for age discrimination, wrongful and unfair dismissal.

However, these claims were dismissed by an employment tribunal held in East London.

Employment Judge Catrin Lewis said: ‘We were unable to find any credible evidence to suggest, or from which we could infer, that someone who was younger than 30 would have been treated any differently in the same circumstances.

‘We have not found any credible evidence from which we could infer that their assessments were influenced in any way by her age.

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