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Gross misconduct dismissal for disclosure of confidential information was unfair where employer had culture of information sharing

In Stimpson v Citibank N.A ET/3200437/15, an employment tribunal held that a forex trader who was sacked for sharing information via Bloomberg instant messaging was unfairly dismissed.

The tribunal held that Citi was not entitled to dismiss Mr Stimpson without notice. It took into account that the employers are a financial institution to whom client confidentiality is of great commercial and reputational importance and that Mr Stimpson was in a privileged position with access to sensitive confidential information. However, it also had regard to the culture of the  business. 

 

The tribunal found that, although Mr Stimpson's information sharing was deliberate, it was not a deliberate breach of his duty of confidentiality because he reasonably believed that his conduct was permitted.

 

This case has implications for all types of workplaces and not just financial institutions. Many employees sign employment contracts with strict rules and policies but they are insufficient if employers do not ensure that they are actually applied and enforced in the business. The fact that management appeared to condone information-sharing with foreign exchange traders from other banks meant that it was unreasonable for Citi to rely on breach of its strict rules protecting clients' confidential information as grounds for dismissing Mr Stimpson for his disclosures on chat rooms. This case also highlights the need for employers to conduct full investigations into what the culture within the workplace is like in reality as opposed to reliance upon strict wording of policies.

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