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'Heavy night' trader loses job bid
An oil trader who was sacked because he was said to be not in a fit state after a heavy night out in Singapore has lost his damages action for wrongful dismissal.
Andrew Kearns, 38, was employed by Glencore UK Ltd from January 2009 until October 2010, when he was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct after missing a series of meetings on the business trip.
Contesting the action at London's High Court, Glencore said he failed to attend critical meetings in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon of October 11 and it was the latest in a series of alcohol-related incidents.
Mr Kearns agreed that was out until 4.30am drinking with colleagues, but said it was not to greater excess than anyone else and the business meetings later that day did not r equire his compulsory attendance.
Mr Kearns, of Rainham, Gillingham, Kent, received a signing-on bonus the equivalent of 325,000 US dollars (current value £202,000) when he joined the company and was on an annual salary of 225,000 US dollars (£140,000) plus other benefits.
Mr Kearns, a married father of three, was not in court to hear Judge Richard Seymour QC make a costs order against him on the higher indemnity basis, with an interim payment due of £150,000.
He said: "This claim was ludicrous - it should never have been advanced."
At the start of the trial, the judge threw out the most valuable part of the claim - in respect of share options - as "hopeless", leaving only the wrongful dismissal element which was worth £12,000 maximum.
"In those circumstances, this is about as abnormal a case of this type that one could imagine. There was no conceivable justification for any claim being made at any point."
Glencore's counsel, Jonathan Cohen, had told the court that "context is everything".
"This is an industry where a mistaken decimal point might result in losses of a very substantial nature. An employer cannot be expected to allow an employee who allows himself to become inappropriately inebriated to remain in the workplace."
Asking for his costs today, Mr Cohen said: "Mr Kearns was dishonest in his evidence. He sought to deny the inevitable. Mr Kearns was habitually drunk and that was the reason he so egregiously failed to perform the duties required of him.
"It was in Mr Kearns's power to remedy his behaviour. When he went on that conference, he could have chosen not to go out until the early hours and get drunk and to turn up to the meetings he was required to, but he chose not to do that."
He said that Glencore had made an offer to Mr Kearns earlier for him to discontinue the case, with each side paying its own costs.
A relevant factor was Mr Kearns's failure to accept the help Glencore offered, involving a doctor and a consultant who was a world expert on drug and alcohol addiction.
Instead, he spent the next afternoon, when he should have been at work, in the pub.
"This was a slap in the face for Glencore. This litigation is a slap in the face for Glencore.
"Mr Kearns has lost his job because of his own behaviour, his own very bad behaviour.
"Glencore did everything they could to help him during the employment until they got to the end of their tether. The tether would have been considerably shorter with the majority of employers. His dismissal was richly justified.
"Notwithstanding that, Glencore has then been forced to spend the best part of £400,000 defending a hopeless claim brought by someone who does not realise how tolerant Glencore were and how much they did to help."