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Teacher fired for skipping staff meeting at independent prep school wins unfair severance pay

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A music teacher fired for skipping a staff meeting at an independent prep school after finding out her mother had cancer has won a compensation battle over her unfair dismissal.

Jacqueline Darryl Dumigan was fired from her 24-year post at The Mount School in Edgerton, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire last December after failing to attend a ‘non-optional’ staff meeting.

The piano and singing teacher had emailed the owner of the £9,000-a-year school to explain that she could not attend the meeting due to family obligations.

She came with her siblings to discuss treatment and care for her 90-year-old mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

But Ms. Dumigan, known to friends and family by her middle name Darryl, didn’t tell school principal and owner Christopher Sellers the “importance of her family gathering.”

Mr Sellers, who already considered Ms Dumigan a ‘difficult’ member of staff according to an employment tribunal, emailed her back saying ‘the resignation has been accepted’.

She then sued The Mount School and a labor judge heard Mr Sellers say she was guilty of “gross misconduct” for missing the meeting.

Jacqueline Darryl Dumigan (above) was fired from her 24-year post at The Mount School in Edgerton, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire last December after failing to attend a ‘non-optional’ staff meeting

The piano and singing teacher had emailed the owner of the £9,000-a-year school (pictured) explaining that she was unable to attend the meeting due to family commitments

The piano and singing teacher had emailed the owner of the £9,000-a-year school (pictured) explaining that she was unable to attend the meeting due to family commitments

But Labor Judge Jaleen, sitting in Leeds, has now upheld the music teacher’s compensation claim for unfair and unfair dismissal, saying that ‘no reasonable employer would have fired Ms Dumigan’.

The tribunal heard that Ms. Dumigan was working part-time, teaching voice and piano on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to four- to 11-year-olds at the 91 preparatory school that Mr. Sellers and his wife, Natalie, took over in 2017.

There had been friction between Mr. Sellers and Mrs. Dumigan at the school, in part because her boss wanted her to become self-employed “given the time she has off and to allow her to manage her outside interests, including a gin.” -making company’.

Mrs. Dumigan’s mini gin distillery, Jacqson Yorkshire Dry Gin, started in her daughter’s old bedroom at the family home in Netherton after Mrs. Dumigan was inspired to start mixing after attending a gin tasting with her son, Sam.

Soon after, she launched her brand, lovingly labeling and filling thousands of bottles, from her test-tube-filled guest room.

In December 2021, an email was sent by Mr Sellers requesting all staff to attend a mandatory meeting at the school on 13 December.

“After reading the email, the plaintiff told Mr. Sellers that she was unable to attend the meeting because she saw her sister, who was traveling remotely, and other relatives that day,” the judge said.

The family meeting was intended to discuss treatment and care for the plaintiff’s 90-year-old mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

She got together with her siblings to discuss treatment and care for her 90-year-old mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer

She got together with her siblings to discuss treatment and care for her 90-year-old mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer

‘The meeting itself had been planned some time ago and Plaintiff was unable to reschedule it.’

“She has not informed Mr. Sellers of the importance of her family gathering,” he added.

“Mr Sellers responded to this email informing the plaintiff that the meeting was not optional and that she would be required to attend for an hour.

‘The plaintiff repeated that she was unable to attend. Mr Sellers again indicated by e-mail that the meeting is not without obligation.

‘The next day, 12 December 2021, the applicant again replied to Mr Sellers by e-mail, informing him that she was not free and therefore unable to attend the meeting.

‘Mr Sellers then sent an email stating ‘resignation accepted’. The applicant responded to this and clarified that she had not resigned.

However, she then received an e-mail from Mr Sellers thanking her for “disposing of any doubt”.

He further told her that the email was a formal notice that her employment would be terminated.

“The plaintiff was told that she would be paid until mid-February and would no longer have to go to school.”

But Ms. Dumigan, known to friends and family by her middle name Darryl, didn't tell school principal and owner Christopher Sellers the

But Ms. Dumigan, known to friends and family by her middle name Darryl, didn’t tell school principal and owner Christopher Sellers the “importance of her family gathering.”

Mr Sellers, who already considered Ms Dumigan a 'difficult' member of staff according to an employment tribunal, emailed her back saying her resignation had been 'accepted'.

Mr Sellers, who already considered Ms Dumigan a ‘difficult’ member of staff according to an employment tribunal, emailed her back saying her resignation had been ‘accepted’.

The tribunal heard that there was a difficult background between the school principal and Ms. Dumigan, whom he described as “one of the most difficult staff members I have worked with in the past four years.”

The pair argued over the music teacher’s work arrangements, and Mr. Sellers claimed she would have been slapped with written warnings long before he “followed the book.”

After a day-long hearing in Leeds, Labor Judge Jaleel ruled in her favor by finding that Mr Sellers had not provided evidence to support his criticism of Ms Dumigan, who had an ‘exemplary employment record’.

The judge ruled that “no reasonable employer would have fired Ms Dumigan and her claim of unfair dismissal succeeds.”

He said, “Mr. Sellers decided to fire the plaintiff following her refusal to attend a staff meeting,” adding: “Dismissal was beyond the scope of reasonable response.”

The labor judge ruled that the school principal “intended to fire her” and added: “In his own evidence, Mr Sellers found no investigation or hearing necessary.

He also stated that he was not discussing or discussing the matter with anyone else as ‘I am the employer, the person who pays your wages, I am the top manager’ and stated, ‘I had had enough of playing games’.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge ruled that Ms. Dumigan’s actions in missing the meeting were not gross misconduct and ordered that compensation for her dismissal be reviewed at a later date.

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