Mrs Linda Ross, 59, was a deputy head teacher at Sidlaw Primary School in Dundee until 2007 when she started to experience professional problems due to media statements that her husband had made. Mr Ross had apparently made comments to the media about some teachers at Sidlaw Primary School being bitten, kicked and struck on the head by pupils. The school viewed this as a breach of confidentiality and Mrs Ross was accused of breaching school rules by being the source of her husband’s information and distributing unauthorised materials to staff. She was suspended and disciplined but was later told that she could return to teaching if she transferred to Longhaugh Primary School. She did so but trouble arose again in 2008 when she was sacked after details emerged that her husband owned and ran a website which had adverts for selling “sexy schoolgirl” uniforms to adults. Mrs Ross subsequently consulted employment law solicitors and submitted an unfair dismissal claim to the Employment Tribunal later in 2008.
The Employment Tribunal heard Mrs Ross’ case in July 2011 and found in Mrs Ross’ favour. The Employment Tribunal decided that it was not within the reasonable range of responses to dismiss Mrs Ross for the actions of her husband, particularly when she had played no active part in setting up or maintaining the website. This was based upon evidence submitted by Mr and Mrs Ross that Mrs Ross had not been involved in the setting-up of the website and that the pornography claim was “bogus”. Dundee Council appealed this ruling and the case was due to go to the Employment Appeal Tribunal this February. However, at the last moment the appeal was withdrawn by the Council – after they had come under sustained political pressure for the amount that was being spent on the Tribunal and the appeal process. It was reported that the Council had spent over £25,000 on legal fees, with £15,000 of this being spent on Brian Napier QC’s Employment Tribunal advocacy.
Mrs Ross’ unfair dismissal solicitor, Mr John Muir, stated after the initial Employment Tribunal victory that she was “obviously delighted that the judgment went in her favour”. He went on to stated that he hoped that this would not happen to a dedicated teacher again. Mrs Ross, for her part, stated that she was “delighted” with the result.
Chris Hadrill, employment lawyer at Redmans, stated: “This case just shows how the cost of defending Employment Tribunal proceedings can outweigh the actual cost of settling the claim or losing the claim if it goes to the Employment Tribunal”.