In Stimpson v Citibank
, Mr Stimpson, a foreign exchange trader, was dismissed for disclosing confidential client details on 12 occasions between February 2010 and August 2011 to other traders on an internet chat room.
The bank argued that such disclosure was prohibited by its code of conduct, handbook and detailed confidentiality policy. Furthermore, unauthorised disclosure of confidential information was expressly stated to be an example of gross misconduct in the bank’s disciplinary policy.
Mr Stimpson argued that his actions ought to be considered in light of the culture within the workplace; he identified two examples of managers appearing to condone the use of the online chatroom. He had not received instructions about the use of the online chat room until January 2013 despite their use being increasingly common from 2010. Furthermore, Mr Stimpson did not believe that his confidentiality obligations extended to certain clients whose activity was already in the public domain.
The East London Employment Tribunal found that Mr Stimpson had been unfairly and wrongfully dismissed. It held that it was insufficient for the bank to rely on a strict reading of its policies and procedures. The dismissal was outside of the range of reasonable responses on the facts. Mr Stimpson had a 25 years’ service and an otherwise clean disciplinary record. He had reasonably believed that his conduct was permitted and had therefore not deliberately breached his duty of confidentiality.
The case emphasises the need for employers to ensure that company policies and procedures are seen to be applied and enforced by the business before seeking to rely on breach of said policy as the basis of a disciplinary.