A case involving London Zoo hit the press at the end of 2015. It related to a tribunal's decision to award a zero compensatory award to an unfair dismissal claim which resulted as a consequence of the Zoo dismissing an employee following a fight at a Christmas party, in which an employee got glassed.
Some will be aware of this case for the legal argument over whether it was fair to apply a different disciplinary sanction to two employees, involved in the same fight, without knowing who the instigator was.
However, the facts of the case warrant a read. They involve a fight between 2 female Zookeepers- Ms Westlake (Meerkats) and Ms Sanders (Tigers and Monkeys). They were fighting over a common love interest in the form of Zookeeper Mr Davies (Lamas).
In the altercation, the Tigers and Monkeys Zookeeper suffered a deep gash to her face from the glass the Meerkats Zookeeper was holding. The Zoo gave Ms Tigers and Monkeys a final warning but dismissed Ms Meerkats. The Tribunal eventually found there was an unfair dismissal but reduced damages to £0.00. Presumably, Ms Meerkats went away with her tail between her legs. It is unclear whether Mr Lama is still with Ms Meerkats or has moved on yet to Ms Snakes and Reptiles. The details of the next years Christmas party are eagerly awaited...
At London Zoo’s Christmas party, zookeeper Ms Westlake got into a fight with a colleague, Ms Sanders. The fight appeared to originate over another zookeeper Mr Davies, Sanders’ former boyfriend who was by then dating Westlake. London Zoo decided to dismiss Westlake for fighting with a colleague at the Christmas party. Sanders’ was given a final written warning and banned from future work social events. Westlake brought a claim for, among other things, unfair dismissal. The employment tribunal examined the differences in sanction. In upholding Westlake’s claim, the employment tribunal concluded that, without clear evidence of who started the fight, no reasonable employer would have placed the blame primarily on her. It could legitimately have dismissed them both, or given them both final warnings. However, the tribunal concluded that Westlake’s award should be reduced to zero