Farnan v Sunderland Association Football Club Ltd  EWHC 3759 (QB); (2016) EMPLR 012
Queen’s Bench Division
‘Banking’ one’s employer’s confidential documents for later use in litigation against the employer breaches the duty of confidentiality and could justify dismissal; as can sending confidential documents to an agent for the purposes of seeking future employment.
F was the Marketing Director of a football club. After various differences of opinion between F and the CEO, F emailed documents from the club to his wife’s email address, so that he could challenge the club if they did not pay his bonus or terminated his employment. He also emailed a football agent and a business associate confidential information, including a presentation setting out the club’s strategy for sponsorship from businesses in Africa.
The club discovered these emails. A disciplinary hearing was arranged. F’s health prevented him attending the hearing. He was dismissed. He sued for his bonus and for compensation for wrongful dismissal. The club defended the claim on the basis that F had breached his contract by, amongst other things, forwarding confidential information to his wife’s email address and to the agent.
The banking of confidential documents was held to be a serious breach of contract. The possibility of future litigation did not justify copying confidential documents, since such documents would be required to be disclosed in the event of litigation anyway.
The documents F sent to the football agent and business associate were also confidential and sending them to an agent risked the club’s sponsorship plans becoming known to other clubs. This was also held to be a serious breach.
The terms of F’s contract entitled the club to dismiss for any serious breach of contract (whether or not ‘gross misconduct’). F’s claim therefore failed.
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