Unfair dismissal claim lost by Mike Shearwood

After making sexist, racist and homophobic comments to colleagues, the chief executive of Clarks shoes was forced out of his post in June last year. Mr Shearwood was contractually obliged to comply with the company’s code of ethics, being given an ultimatum to resign or be dismissed after several senior members of staff made allegations about his conduct. 


Mr Shearwood took the firm to an employment tribunal, claiming he was being dismissed by the board of directors because he had raised concerns about the perilous state of Clarks’s finances, which they were hiding from shareholders. However, Mike Shearwood allegedly described a client of Clarks as a ‘f****** f****t’. He was also accused of telling a colleague she was not ‘fat, fat’, suggesting in fact she had large breasts, and said another employee was ‘hot’.


What is unfair dismissal?


An unfair dismissal claim is conducted when an employer has not followed the correct dismissal procedures, or if laws have been broken surrounding whistleblowing or issues relating to maternity. As an employer, it is their responsibility to give a fair and truthful reason for dismissing an employee. All dismissal procedures should be followed and the process should have been fair and by failing to do so can be viewed as unfair. 


What happened in the Mike Shearwood case? 


Following a five-day hearing at an employment tribunal in Bristol, Employment Judge Derek Reed dismissed Mr Shearwood’s claims under unfair dismissal and public interest disclosure. Clarks, as a business, was founded based on principles of integrity, equality, and community and Mr Shearwood was fired due to his conduct at work. Shearwood also alleged he was given a list of allegations against him at a board meeting, just hours before his departure was announced.


‘Mr Shearwood was the chief executive and these allegations had occurred in America and they were clearly concerned about the prospect of damaging the company’s position in the US and they were also concerned about the possibility of employees leaving if these matters were not resolved.’ 


What can employers learn from this case? 


It is a known fact that employers are often faced with claims from employees in relation to whistleblowing and unfair dismissal. They should still exercise caution and take advice where appropriate, with strong written evidence to demonstrate why they acted the way they did, and to show that an employee’s protected characteristic was irrelevant in any of their decision makings.  

In this case, despite Shearwood claiming he was dismissed because he had tried to expose mismanagement, there was no specific evidence highlighting this. 


How can Nationwide Employment Lawyers help you? 


Compared to other firms out there, we are incredibly dedicated and always represent our clients from beginning to end. We proudly offer employment law advice for employers and would be more than happy to help you with any case that may surround employment law and no case will be deemed as being too big or small.


For more information, please get in touch with us using the details provided, either give us a call on 020 8263 6080 or you can complete the contact form on our website and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.