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Factory supervisor wins unfair dismissal case after tribunal rules that she did not resign by handing in keys and saying ‘I’m done’

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Natalie Cope v Razzle Dazzle Costumes Limited the claimant was employed by the respondent as a factory/supervisor cutter. The claimant had enjoyed a good working relationship with Mrs. Parker (now deceased) who was the wife of Mr. Ken Parker, owner of the business.

A colleague of the claimant’s, Sam, resigned in the summer of 2021 alleging that the claimant was a bully. This was in the context that the claimant and Sam had fallen out at work.

On 31 August 2021 the claimant was informed by the respondent that she had been accused of being a bully by Sam. The claimant said she had not done anything to upset a colleague and refuted any suggestion she had bullied her colleague. The claimant stated that if she was made to work with Sam, she would have to go on sick leave. Mr. Parker informed the claimant she should remain professional and that both the claimant and Sam were assets to the business. The claimant agreed to be supportive and stay committed to get through a difficult situation.

On 8 September 2020 the claimant requested a further meeting with the Parkers. At this meeting the claimant threatened to resign if things were not sorted. The Tribunal found on the balance of probabilities that the claimant did not actually resign at the meeting but threatened to resign. The Tribunal did not find that the notes of this meeting accurately represented the exchange between the parties and the claimant did not sign the meeting note prepared by the respondent.

The next day, Cope was said to be in an “anxious state” and “upset” about the situation, so she called the office to speak to Mrs. Parker, but sales manager Keri Edwards told her that Parker was at a hospital appointment and unavailable.

This caused Cope’s anxiety to increase, and this was “intensified” by a leak to her stoma bag. She attended the office just before 1pm to ask if Parker had returned, and Edwards said she was “visibly upset”.

The tribunal heard that Cope – who had three days holiday booked, starting the following day, and would often return her keys before going on annual leave – put her keys on the desk and said, “I’m done” with a hand gesture that indicated “she was finished”.

At no point did Cope say she was resigning or that she was not coming back to work, and it would have been apparent to Edwards that she was “very anxious and clearly upset”. It also said that RDC should have been “cautious to consider that [Cope] was terminating her employment by these words and actions”.

Employment Judge Wedderspoon said that on the balance of probabilities RDC “took the opportunity to dispense” with Cope as her dispute with Sam was a “troublesome situation”.

The tribunal awarded Cope £7,448.96 for loss of statutory rights, notice of pay and loss of earnings, alongside a basic award.

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