Freshfields is slammed in Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ruling
12 October 2012
received a serious kicking from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for shoddy disciplinary processes and unconvincing testimony in a judgment which was released earlier this year.
The case concerned three paralegals all of whom worked the
6pm to midnight graveyard shift in the firm's corporate department. In
January 2009, the paralegals were accused of abusing the firm's taxi and meals expenses policy. Following an investigation, one was sacked for gross misconduct and the other two resigned after entering
compromise agreements. All three launched Employment Tribunal claims
against Freshfields: one of which was lost (with the ET criticising the paralegal's inability to justify the expenses), one struck out and the other
However at the end of last year, the matter went before the SDT which cleared the trio of any dishonesty. The two paralegals who gave evidence were complimented as "credible and honest witnesses
". Freshfields, on the other hand, did not fare so well. One of the firm's HR managers in particular came in for harsh criticism:
- "The Tribunal found [X] to be an unimpressive and unconvincing witness"
- "[X] did not appear to be fully aware of the firm's policies notwithstanding the fact that [X] was a senior HR manager"
- "[X's] evidence was contradictory and confusing"
- "The Tribunal found that the manner in which those [investigatory] meetings were carried out to be totally unacceptable"
- "[X] gave evidence that there had been an investigation but, in fact, that was clearly not true"
||A telling off yesterday |
That's a pretty brutal dressing down for an HR manager at one of the City's top firms. But the manager weathered the storm and stayed in role.
A Freshfields' spokesman said: "The firm was not a party to the SDT's proceedings. However, their conclusions are at odds with the judge-led Employment Tribunal which fully considered the case and in analysing all the material available upheld the firm's actions, concluding that all the people involved had conducted a thorough and fair investigation