A WOMAN has settled a claim against her former employer after she was wrongly sacked for reporting her boss was smoking in his office.
Sarah Emerson worked as PA to Andreas Stavrinides, boss of the Skylark Hotel and Conference Centre in Aviation Way, Rochford, but was sacked when she raised concerns about his in-work smoking habit.
Judges described Mr Stavrinides as having behaved inappropriately and disruptively.
Hours before a hearing for costs was due to be held on Friday, the firm settled with Miss Emerson for £8,000.
Speaking to the Echo after the case was settled, Miss Emerson, 42, said: “I’m delighted that justice has won the day. Everyone said to me the odds were stacked against me. It’s not about the money – I’m still massively out of pocket – it was the principle.”
Andreas Stavrinides, right, pictured in 2011.
Last year, a tribunal ruled in Miss Emerson’s favour in the dispute over Travelforce Ltd, Andreas Stavrinides’ company which owns the hotel.
It heard that the MD told her he would curb his smoking after she started full time at the centre, after four months of working part time.
But one day , Miss Emerson, of Woodside, Leigh, said she found that the smell of heavy pipe smoke in the office was “simply unbearable”, and asked to work somewhere else in the hotel.
After she complained, Mr Stavrinides told her to swap desks with a younger employee, but when she protested that her colleague shouldn’t have to put up with his smoking either, he sent her home.
That evening he phoned Miss Emerson and sacked her, claiming later that he had been planning to restructure his business.
But the tribunal judges dismissed this claim as a “lie” from Stavrinides. They also said that a defence he made about her having signed a contract for a function without his approval was a “total fabrication”. Elsewhere they described his evidence that she was a disruptive worker as “unconvincing and cynical”.
The hearing also heard that Mr Stavrinides said he was the safety representative for the company, but the tribunal found he had “ignorance of the law and his responsibilities”.
Miss Emerson added: “I couldn’t have done this without borrowing money from my Dad, who I am paying back with the settlement. If this inspires one other person to stand up for themselves then it will have been worth it.”
Mr Stavrinides said he still doesn’t accept the tribunal was correct and claimed the courts were “very sympathetic to employees”.
He added that the company puts “a lot of emphasis” on ensuring that there was “health and safety of our staff, visitors and guests”.
Mr Stavrinides, 64, took over the Skylark Hotel in 2011 and carried out a large refurbishment of the complex.