Former hotel inspector Gordon Cartwright was unfairly dismissed by the AA, Southampton Employment Tribunal has ruled.
However, Employment Judge Kolanko decided to make no award of compensation to Cartwright after ruling that he was to blame for his dismissal, stating that his actions had been "foolish and ill judged".
It also rejected Cartwright's complaint of unlawful disability discrimination in relation to the anxiety and depression he suffered.
The ruling was made as the result of a lengthy hearing in which the total breakdown in the relationship between Cartwright and the AA was chronicled.
Cartwright resigned from the AA, which he had joined in 1997, on 17 November 2009. His resignation followed a period of turmoil within the AA, which stemmed from a High Court libel case in which Cartwright made a public apology to another former AA hotel inspector, Jayne Wyatt, after he had claimed she had sent him a pornographic email. Wyatt herself had won a claim for unfair dismissal against the AA in 2008.
Held over a period of 32 days, the tribunal found in Cartwright's favour in two out of 29 allegations. Firstly, that he was invited to a Stage 3 disciplinary hearing by Rupert Miles, chief executive of AA Media on inappropriate grounds and without being given any warning and, secondly, that Janet Thompson, former group HR director for the AA, was appointed as the HR advisor to the disciplinary hearing having previously made her views known about the claimant in a "wholly aggressive letter".
The tribunal found that "a lack of apparent impartiality" with regards the disciplinary proceedings resulted in a breach of trust and confidence by the AA resulting in Cartwright handing in his resignation, an action which was deemed to equate to constructive unfair dismissal.
A further 27 allegations - including claims of alleged bullying and being isolated by colleagues - made by Cartwright were dismissed by the tribunal
The disciplinary hearing against Cartwright was initiated after what appeared to be an irretrievable break down in his relationship with his line manager, Simon Numphud, head of the AA Hotel Services Division. At one time the two men had been close friends, with their families sharing holidays and Numphud being godfather to Cartwright's daughter.
In the conclusion of the 105-page judgement document, Cartwright was criticised by Judge Kolanko for not being a credible witness with regards to the central issues of the case. Described as a man who "openly displays supreme confidence in his own abilities", he was also said to be "a person who is unconcerned as to whether the contents of letters/emails are accurate, especially if misleading information will achieve the object he is pursuing."
In contrast, Numphud was portrayed as "a more reserved and quieter personality" who "lacked emotional strength to challenge a forceful employee".
Commenting in response to the judgement on behalf of Cartwright, Alistair MacLean, national secretary of the Independent Democratic Union, which represented the claimant during the tribunal, said: "We were pleased that Mr Cartwright's primary complaint of unfair dismissal was upheld and we believe this supports the concerns we had about the employer's conduct. We were of course disappointed on the conclusions regarding contributory fault and the impact on compensation."
The AA declined to comment.
By Janet Harmer
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