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Employee ‘bullied' by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, tribunal hears

16 May 2014 by
Employee ‘bullied' by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, tribunal hears

A hotel manager lost her job after she was subjected to a campaign of "bully-boy tactics" and harassment by her fellow directors, an employment tribunal has heard.

Jan Hampton, 52, owned Egerton House, in Bolton, for seven years until it was taken over by the Macdonald Hotels & Resorts company in 2010.

The company claim Hampton, who remained a director and a 25% shareholder following the takeover, was sacked in August 2012 for her poor performance.

But she's claiming unfair dismissal against her former employers and fellow directors James Davidson and Chris Wayne-Wills.

The tribunal, in Manchester, heard how Hampton had acquired the 29-bed hotel in 2003 with the backing of Macdonald.

Hampton, who'd invested £100,000 towards the purchase, remained a minority shareholder when the company took control of Egerton House in October 2010 by changing the type of shares it owned.

Hampton claims she was bullied into accepting a compromise agreement which allowed Macdonald to change the shares and then "harassed" by Davidson into signing a refinancing agreement that left her liable for the company's £340m debts.

"There was a campaign of bully-boy tactics to make me agree to the change in shares," she said.

"Eventually I agreed to a compromise agreement because I heard from the bank who would not provide any more funding. I was backed into a corner."

Hampton claims she was "bombarded" by calls from Davidson about the refinancing agreement while she was on holiday in Australia, but he denies this.

Macdonald claim that Hampton was dismissed for her performance and the financial performance of the "failing" hotel, which closed earlier this year.

Euan Smith, representing Davidson and Wayne-Wills, said Hampton was aware of the concerns of her fellow directors about her performance from an early stage.

He said: "There is a letter from February, 2011, in which Mr Wayne-Wills talks of a general malaise that surrounds the hotel and is accepted as normal by your staff and, more importantly, you."

He added that this and subsequent letters could have left Hampton in no doubt that her fellow directors were focusing on her individual position.

The tribunal previously heard claims by Hampton that she was dismissed because she objected to a rebranding of the hotel to include the Macdonald name and had raised allegations of fraud and wrongdoing concerning the hotel's accounts.

But Wayne Wills said the rebranding had been necessary to try to "turn around" the failing hotel which he felt "couldn't survive" as an independent.

And he denied Hampton's concerns about a £179,000 charge on the hotel's accounts had led to her sacking.

The tribunal was also told that Hampton was denied the opportunity to represent herself at the disciplinary hearing before her dismissal and she was not given the chance to appeal the decision.

Tribunal panel judge David Jones said the actions of her fellow directors were "an extraordinary departure from proper practice" and there is "a well-entrenched requirement" in the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) whereby individuals can make representations at a disciplinary hearing and challenge a decision at an appeal and Macdonald hadn't complied with it's own code of conduct.

The panel is expected to reach a decision on Hampton's claim by the end of next month.

Egerton House's closure meant the loss of 25 full and part time jobs and eight weddings had to be rearranged.

At the time, Hampton said: "I am extremely upset after hearing about the pending closure.

"I put 10 years of my life into that hotel and it is such a shame. Although the hotel changed ownership in 2010 I still have shares in it and I am still a director."

Speaking to Caterer last month, David Guile, chief executive of Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, said: "The hotel was a joint venture and was never really representative of the brand in terms of quality.

"We're now reviewing the potential of the property and it may be sold or converted into a private residence.

"We certainly don't have plans to close any more hotels."

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