Dog bone row driver unfairly dismissed by racehorse owner
A driver sacked by a racehorse owner for feeding a piece of leftover lamb to an ailing Labrador has won a claim for unfair dismissal.
Property tycoon Raymond Mould did not act reasonably in dismissing Ivor James, 60, when his dog needed surgery, an employment tribunal judge ruled.
Mr James was fired with immediate effect two days after feeding a piece of gristle to the dog at Mr Mould's country estate in Gloucestershire.
Compensation will be decided later.
Mr James was sacked from his post at Wormington Manor, near Broadway, shortly after Merlin the dog was rushed to a veterinary hospital on 5 November last year.
Mr Mould, whose wealth was estimated at £60m in 2010, told the tribunal Mr James was "grossly irresponsible" in feeding a lamb bone to the dog, who he claimed could have been killed.
But Mr James, who also worked as a handyman for Mr Mould, told the hearing Merlin, who had recently undergone surgery after eating conkers, was only given the "fatty end" of a rack of lamb.
"The dog was sat there begging so I gave him a piece of lamb meat. It was just what was left when I finished my dinner," he told the tribunal.
"I didn't consider it was a bone - as far as I was concerned it was a piece of fatty meat."
Judge Christopher Camp said he had no reason to doubt the account of the incident given by the claimant.
The tribunal heard Mr James was sacked during a 12-minute phonecall.
Mr Camp said Mr Mould admitted he decided to dismiss Mr James before he picked up the phone, adding: "I don't accept that it is enough to give the claimant merely an opportunity to change the decision-maker's mind."
Mr Mould, who also has homes in London and France, failed to speak to a housekeeper who witnessed the alleged misconduct or to conduct an adequate investigation about the incident, the judge noted.
"No reasonable employer in Mr Mould's shoes would have done this," the judge said.
"The claimant wasn't even given the courtesy of a face-to-face discussion."
Although Mr Mould acted in the mistaken but genuinely-held belief that the claimant had caused Merlin to undergo emergency surgery, Judge Camp said he was satisfied the dismissal was substantively unfair.