Aldeburgh Golf Club's 'witch hunt' criticised
A golf club unfairly dismissed a staff member after she raised concerns about an alleged inappropriate relationship between a club secretary and a member, an employment tribunal has found.
Aldeburgh Golf Club in Suffolk was criticised by employment judge Robin Postle for conducting a "witch hunt" against employee Margaret Chadwick.
Mrs Chadwick, of Laxfield, is to receive £50,000 from the club.
The golf club said it had "acted in good faith" in fighting the case.
The settlement, agreed by the £1,000-a-year membership golf club - which was founded in 1884, follows an employment tribunal hearing.
The tribunal at Bury St Edmunds heard that Mrs Chadwick had been employed by the previous club secretary in 2008 and had received no complaints about her work until a new club secretary Bill Beckett took over in April 2012.
In fact she had received a pay raise of 10% in January 2011 and 3% in January 2012.
Judge Postle said in his judgement that Mr Beckett had come from Hadley Wood Golf Club in Hertfordshire where his "dictatorial manner" had seen him referred to as the "Ayatollah".
He immediately started finding fault with her work, the hearing was told.
Judge Postle said: "One cannot get away from the feeling that the claimant (Mrs Chadwick) was the victim of nothing short of a witch hunt, given the fact of her previous unblemished service prior to the arrival of Mr Beckett."
Mrs Chadwick complained to the then Club Captain at Aldeburgh, Steve Beaumont, of Mr Beckett's bullying behaviour, but he rejected the complaint saying: "I do not regard Bill Beckett's behaviour to you as bullying and there has been no physical violence towards you."
Judge Postle said the captain displayed "amazing ignorance, naivety and total misunderstanding of bullying and harassment".
Mrs Chadwick was finally dismissed after she raised concerns to a lady club captain that members of the club were talking about Mr Beckett and a woman member behaving inappropriately at a party.
She also said she had seen the woman in the office "trying to squeeze Mr Beckett's bottom".
Judge Postle said Mr Beckett and the woman "had consistently, vehemently and categorically denied" the allegations.
The club accused Mrs Chadwick of spreading the rumours to discredit Mr Beckett.
Judge Postle said it was "not unreasonable" for Mrs Chadwick to raise concerns with the lady captain on allegations of inappropriate conduct "openly being discussed within the club".
He said the club failed to properly investigate the alleged conduct.
Mrs Chadwick said she was pleased with the decision of the tribunal.
"I still can't believe it. It is amazing," she said. "I feel for everybody who can't afford to go to an employment tribunal. They have to see that the justice system does work and how wonderful it is."
Mrs Chadwick said she was still angry at the way she had been treated. "It hurts an awful lot," she said.
Tim Rowan-Robinson, Captain of Aldeburgh Golf Club, said: "The outcome of the tribunal hearing was disappointing and was not the result we and our legal team had expected. The club has now settled Mrs Chadwick's claim.
"This has been a trying time for all involved and we now want to put the matter firmly behind us.
"We value our staff highly and their welfare has always been of paramount importance to the club and its members."