Tony Olanipekun, AYO Media co-founder, wins Employment Tribunal unfair dismissal claim

MoJThe co-founder of a liquidated Tyneside web development company has won his legal claim against his former employer after he was dismissed from his job in March 2014.

Mr Tony Olanipekun, 40, co-founded AYO Media Limited in 2008 and has won his claim for unfair dismissal after he was was told by the chairman of the company in March 2014 that his services were no longer required by the business. He subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the company in the Newcastle Employment Tribunal.

The case came to the Employment Tribunal last year, in a case chaired by Employment Judge Garnon. AYO Digital defended the claim on the basis that Mr Olanipekun had ceased to be an employee prior to his dismissal and that he was therefore not entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. AYO Digital’s representative pointed to the fact that Mr Olanipekun had moved away from the day-to-day running of AYO’s business to work on the development of a spin-off company, Columbus CPD Ltd, and that Mr Olanipekun had been submitting invoices AYO Digital to present the image that he was a consultant rather than an employee. However, he remained on AYO’s payroll during this period and Mr Olanipekun claimed that the true situation was that he in fact remained an employee of AYO during the relevant periods.

Employment Judge Garnon gave his judgment in the case earlier this year, finding that Mr Olanipekun’s was in fact an employee of AYO Digital at the time that he was dismissed and that his claim for unfair dismissal was therefore “well founded”. Mr Olanipekun was awarded £17,668.18 in compensation for loss of earnings.

Mr Olanipekun, speaking to The Journal after the judgment was given, stated: “It was very weird for me to be removed from this business which I had put so much into helping to build. Me and the co-founders were responsible for growing the firm to employ 30 people. Suddenly this business that I had grown was closed to me.”

It is not currently clear whether AYO Digital will pay for the whole or part of the Employment Tribunal award as the company went into liquidation earlier this year. Mr Olanipekun would therefore rank as a creditor against the company

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Businesses must take procedurally fair steps to dismiss employees and should make decisions to dismiss that are themselves reasonable and based on fair and reasonable investigations. If businesses fail to take these steps then they expose themselves to the risk of potentially expensive, time-consuming, and embarrassing Employment Tribunal claims.”