Perth lecturer fails in unfair dismissal Employment Tribunal claim

A former aircraft engineering lecturer has lost his claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal after he was fired because the college he was working for discovered that he was offering services in competition with the college.

Mr Daniel Olufisan commenced employment with Perth College, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, as a lecturer in aircraft engineering. However, he also, at some point after joining the college, set up his own company – Wing Engineering Limited – which offered services in competition with the college’s activities and was also in breach of the college’s rules.

Mr Olufisan’s potential breach of his contract of employment came to light after he had attended a Royal Aeronautical Society (“RAS”) conference. The college had given Mr Olufisan paid time off work to visit this conference and was concerned when it later read in the journal of the RAS that he was listed as “Daniel Olufisan of Wing Engineering”. An investigation was subsequently set up into the matter and it was alleged that Mr Olufisan had pursued his own business in the college’s time, that he was directly competing with the college, that he had used college materials for his own purposes and that he had also used the college’s intellectual property rights for his own business. Mr Olufisan was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct after it was found that he had fraudulently breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence that exists between an employer and an employee.

After being dismissed, Mr Olufisan subsequently brought an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and the case came before the Employment Tribunal earlier this month. The Employment Judge who chaired the hearing dismissed Mr Olufisan’s claim, stating that the college had conducted a reasonable investigation and that it had not made a decision which was outside of the range of reasonable responses in dismissing him.