Employee Unfairly Dismissed For Sharing The Details Of A Confidential Document Left On An Office Printer

In the employment law case of Jagex Ltd v McCambridge, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was asked to consider reductions in compensation where a Claimant has “contributed” to their dismissal (contributory fault).

Jagex Ltd v McCambridge

Case background

John McCambridge (the Claimant) worked for Jagex Ltd (the Respondent), a video game developer and publisher based in Cambridge.

In August 2017, the Claimant was sacked by Jagex after he found a document, which had been left on a communal printer, which contained the salary of a senior employee. He mentioned the document to a few work colleagues and another colleague started a game at lunchtime to guess the senior employee’s salary. A number of employees from Jagex confronted managers regarding the salary of the senior employee, which was reported to be high and excessive.

Whilst Mr McCambridge had no involvement in the lunchtime game and wasn’t one of the people who complained to the company’s managers, he was dismissed by the Respondent for gross misconduct for disclosing the details of a confidential document. The other employees who saw the document and were involved in the lunchtime game were not disciplined.

The Claimant brought Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal against his former employer.

ET proceedings

The ET ruled in favour of the Claimant.

Jagex argued that Mr McCambridge had breached his contract of employment by failing to treat the document as confidential. The ET disagreed with this point, and pointed out that it could be argued that the senior employee, whose salary had been disclosed, could be perceived as breaching their own employment contract by leaving a confidential document on a communal printer and not marking it in accordance with the Respondent’s information security system.

There would be no compensation reduction for contributory fault as Mr McCambridge’s actions did not amount to gross misconduct and the matter was adjourned for a remedy hearing.

Jagex appealed the decision.

EAT proceedings

The EAT allowed the employer’s appeal on the contributory fault point; holding that conduct does not need to amount to gross misconduct in order for it to contribute to an employee’s dismissal and therefore be a matter to take into consideration in calculating compensation.

The case was sent back for the Tribunal to reconsider whether there should be a reduction for contributory fault in this case.

Comment

Even where an employer is found to have unfairly dismissed an employee, it is possible for the employer to run arguments that a fairer procedure would not have actually made a difference (Polkey) and as discussed, that the employee contributed to their own dismissal.

These arguments can lead to a 100% reduction in compensation in certain cases.

This case confirms that any conduct by an employee, which is relevant, can be taken in to account in considering whether an employee has contributed to their dismissal and what impact that should have on compensation.

Jagex McCambridgeHow can Nelsons help?

Laura Kearsley is a Partner in our expert Employment Law team.

For further information or to comment on this article, please contact Laura or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.