Case law updates

Victimised City worker wins claim after whistleblowing on financial malpractice

A tribunal has ruled that a City executive who blew the whistle on financial malpractice and was subjected to ongoing victimisation after her employment ended was unfairly dismissed. Ms Svetlana Sinelnikova was unfairly dismissed when foreign exchange broker ActivTrades suspended her for gross misconduct after she attended a work trip to Dubai while signed off sick. It also concluded that the company attempted to “attack her credibility” after Sinelnikova had blown the whistle on financial malpractice.

The tribunal said ActivTrades’ treatment of Sinelnikova caused “a very high level of injury to her feelings” over a sustained and long period of time, describing the actions of the organisation as “concerted and malicious”, The tribunal found the employer had conducted a “covert disciplinary investigation” by contacting her GP in an attempt to ascertain if the sick note was genuine, and checking to see if she had sent work emails during her time in Dubai. All this, in the Tribunal’s view amounted to ActivTrades “looking for a reason” for Sinelnikova to leave the business and had “jumped to the conclusion” that she had committed gross misconduct.

When she then lodged a grievance via email blowing the whistle on her concerns of financial malpractice within the company – for which she was still responsible and accountable – she was invited to a disciplinary hearing on the same day. Sinelnikova resigned but the tribunal found that following her resignation ActivTrades refused to give her access to personal data held on her work computer, including details about her personal life and family; falsely accused her of “running her eBay account” during work hours and downloading illegal music; and threatened legal action against her in the High Court for starting employment with an alleged competitor – an action that the tribunal described as “without justification”.

The tribunal found that Sinelnikova had been victimised and unfairly dismissed. As the injury to feelings had had “a profound effect on almost every aspect of her life” the tribunal awarded Sinelnikova a total of £76,510 in compensation, including £40,000 damages for injury to feelings.