Glencore oil trader Andrew Kearns loses wrongful dismissal claim after he was sacked for 'heavy night' of drinking - and is ordered to pay at least £150,000

Glencore said he failed to attend critical Singapore meetings in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon

An oil trader sacked because he was said to be not in a fit state after a heavy night out in Singapore has lost his damages action for wrongful dismissal and now faces having to pay at least £150,000 costs.

Andrew Kearns, 38, was employed by Glencore UK Ltd from January 2009 until October 2010, when he was summarily dismissed after missing a series of meetings on the business trip.

Mr Kearns claimed he was sacked as a “scapegoat” for other issues at the firm, adding: “ I am disappointed naturally. The judge adopted a very legalistic approach as to whether or not I was wrongfully dismissed. 

"Throughout the trial the judge asserted he was not concerned about what other possible reasons lay behind my dismissal, nor whether the reasons for my dismissal were fair, but rather if Glencore had a right to dismiss me without warning nor notice, contractually. 

"I consider the judgement harsh given the surrounding context heard during proceedings and the clearly hostile feelings certain people within Glencore held for me being proven in pre-trial evidence disclosure.”

Contesting the action at London's High Court, Glencore said he failed to attend critical meetings in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon of 11 October and it was the latest in a series of alcohol-related incidents.

Mr Kearns agreed that was out until 4.30am drinking with colleagues, but said it was not to greater excess than anyone else and the business meetings later that day did not require his compulsory attendance.

Mr Kearns, of Rainham, Gillingham, Kent, received a signing-on bonus the equivalent of $325,000 (current value £202,000) when he joined the company and was on an annual salary of $225,000 (£140,000) plus other benefits.

Mr Kearns, a married father of three, was not in court to hear Judge Richard Seymour QC make a costs order against him on the higher indemnity basis, with an interim payment due of £150,000.

The judge said: "This claim was ludicrous - it should never have been advanced."

At the start of the trial, the judge threw out the most valuable part of the claim - in respect of share options - as "hopeless", leaving only the wrongful dismissal element which was worth £12,000 maximum.

"In those circumstances, this is about as abnormal a case of this type that one could imagine. There was no conceivable justification for any claim being made at any point."

Glencore's counsel, Jonathan Cohen, had told the court: "This is an industry where a mistaken decimal point might result in losses of a very substantial nature. An employer cannot be expected to allow an employee who allows himself to become inappropriately inebriated to remain in the workplace."

Asking for his costs today, Mr Cohen said: "Mr Kearns was dishonest in his evidence. He sought to deny the inevitable. Mr Kearns was habitually drunk and that was the reason he so egregiously failed to perform the duties required of him. It was in Mr Kearns's power to remedy his behaviour. When he went on that conference, he could have chosen not to go out until the early hours and get drunk and to turn up to the meetings he was required to, but he chose not to do that."

He said that Glencore had made an offer to Mr Kearns earlier for him to discontinue the case, with each side paying its own costs.

A relevant factor was Mr Kearns's failure to accept the help Glencore offered, involving a doctor and a consultant who was a world expert on drug and alcohol addiction. Instead, he spent the next afternoon, when he should have been at work, in the pub.

"This was a slap in the face for Glencore. This litigation is a slap in the face for Glencore. Mr Kearns has lost his job because of his own behaviour, his own very bad behaviour.

"Glencore did everything they could to help him during the employment until they got to the end of their tether. The tether would have been considerably shorter with the majority of employers. His dismissal was richly justified.

"Notwithstanding that, Glencore has then been forced to spend the best part of £400,000 defending a hopeless claim brought by someone who does not realise how tolerant Glencore were and how much they did to help."

Mr Cohen said that Mr Kearns's absence record was "appalling", being late or absent for at least 20 per cent of his service in London. His non-attendance at the conference was the final straw and he found himself between a rock and a hard place.


 

In his ruling, the judge said that Mr Kearns was an unsatisfactory witness, inclined to contest what, on the evidence, could not seriously be contested and to minimise the extent of his alcohol consumption and its consequences.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links