Woman golfer wins dispute over sacking

Clubhouse clash: Champion lost job unfairly after fracas, but sex discrimination case fails
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The Independent Online
A champion woman golfer celebrated victory yesterday after winning her case for unfair dismissal against owners of a golf club following a fracas in which she punched a businessman.

Philomena Vaughan, 42, struck John Price, 49, causing him to fall off his stool, after claiming that he stroked her thigh during a prize-giving ceremony at the Dewstow golf club in Caerwent, Gwent.

Details of Mrs Vaughan's punch spread like wildfire around the club, earning her the nickname of "Mohammed Ali" and "Rocky", an industrial tribunal in Cardiff heard yesterday.

After the incident, Mrs Vaughan, who has four children and has won the club championship three times, was suspended from her job as manager of the club shop.

Two months later she was sacked after claims that she called the ladies' captain "an old bitch", and officials "a load of old sods".

Yesterday the tribunal unanimously agreed that Mrs Vaughan was unfairly dismissed. But the panel rejected her second complaint of sex discrimination.

Clive Lewis, representing Mrs Vaughan, said the club, which charges fees of pounds 450 a year, had not suspended her fellow member, Mr Price, who was alleged to have stroked Mrs Vaughan's thigh as she walked past him after receiving her awards at a crowded presentation evening. Mrs Vaughan, of Rogiet, Gwent, punched Mr Price, who is 6ft-tall, twice, knocking him from his bar stool after telling him not to touch her.

At earlier hearings Mr Price strongly denied sexually harassing Mrs Vaughan, claiming he was merely trying to point out a cigarette which had become attached to the bottom of her dress.

A former club barmaid, Sonya Harris, had told the earlier hearings that she saw Mr Price point out to Mrs Vaughan that she had something on her dress. "I then saw Mr Price lean forward and put his hand on her left thigh. Mrs Vaughan then said something like, 'Don't touch me', then I remember Mr Price waved his hand as if he was dismissing her allegation." Miss Harris added that Mrs Vaughan then reacted by twice poking Mr Price in the shoulder, after which he "looked like he lost his balance".

Mr Lewis had claimed the club failed to suspend Mr Price pending the result of an investigation.

After the decision Mrs Vaughan, a Welsh gold medal winner and a county player, said she was delighted to have won.

"Everyone has to stand up for their rights," she added.

"It was quite difficult to take this action before the tribunal but I would do the same again. Everyone has got to stand up for their rights, it's very important."

Mrs Vaughan said she considered she had won the case despite the technicalities of the panel dismissing sex discrimination.

Geoffrey Davies, the panel's chairman, said that after hearing details of Mrs Vaughan's pounds 9,000-a-year job and her fringe benefits including clothing and golf clubs, compensation for the unfair dismissal would be agreed at a later date. However, the panel was ordering a reduction of 25 per cent because of their view that Mrs Vaughan had contributed to her own dismissal.

Mrs Vaughan was backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission in her case.

Management of the Dewstow golf club have not so far commented on the decision.