Manager who viewed porn sites loses unfair dismissal case

Wednesday 9th December 2009
Written by Rosalind Renshaw
The case of a sales manager who spent hundreds of hours of work time viewing porn websites and playing online poker has underlined the need for agents to have rock-solid dismissal procedures.

Sacked for gross misconduct last year, Anthony Stewart, 33, took Dorset agents Lloyds Property Group to an employment tribunal where he claimed tens of thousands of pounds for unfair dismissal and lost earnings.

He lost his case but Lloyds, a three-office agency set up by Tom Doyle 30 years ago, says it endured 14 months of hell and was left with a £10,000 legal bill.

Stewart went to work for the agents four years ago and was sales manager in Lilliput, Poole, where he earned in excess of £50,000.

His online habits were discovered by chance, when his computer had to be checked for a virus.

Lloyds director Paul Fisher said: “We use an external HR consultancy and made sure we followed all the correct procedures, to the letter. We put him on gardening leave and an inquiry was instigated by our managing director, who had had nothing to do with the original suspension.

“However, we were taken to tribunal and challenged on eight points.

“Fortunately, the tribunal ruled in our favour on every single point. In employment law, it appears you are guilty until proven innocent. It was therefore not something we could walk away from, even though we felt we had a rock-solid case. As a company, we went through considerable stress as a result of it.”

Stewart had claimed that he only used porn sites to take his mind off his gambling habit. He also said that the firm was aware that employees used their computers for personal use and claimed that it had no formal policy on internet use.

Fisher said that the tribunal rejected this, with Tom Doyle saying that if you needed a book to tell you that using inappropriate websites is wrong, then he despaired.

It was argued on Stewart’s behalf that a gambling addiction should be viewed as an illness, such as cancer. Fisher said he felt that was insulting to cancer sufferers.

It was also said that Stewart had used only one poker website, but the firm’s computer records showed use of a further eight.

The employment tribunal rejected Stewart’s claim and said that in total, he had spent “hundreds of hours over a number of years” on porn and poker websites.

There are now outstanding civil proceedings by Lloyds against Stewart.

Stewart is now working for another local estate agency, Scott Baines.

Yesterday, he said he did not want to comment.

(28) Comments

Added by Brian on 2009-12-10 17:35:50

Easy, what ever you do don't get caught! rightmoves fault anyway.
Added by johnno on 2009-12-10 13:50:27

ACE OF SPADES I couldn't agree with you more. If ignorance was a crime Penelope and Sally would have been "banged up in chokey" years ago. He looked at images (legal) on a screen. He shouldn't have done it and was suitably punished HOWEVER this does not make the man a thief or a pervert. Now take your middle class heads out of your backsides, rub your eyes and welcome yourself into the real world!!!
Added by AceofSpades on 2009-12-10 12:26:31

Well said Big Gee. You all seem to be suggesting that this is the only estate agent in the uk that looks at adult sites?! Yeah right. "You never know who you are letting into your house!" Honestly Penelope (and others)- so what if he looks at p0rn! Its not going to affect you in anyway. Has anyone considered what "type" of p0rn he is looking at? "Is there acceptabable and unacceptable types?" No. There are legal and illegal types! If it wasn illegal, you would definitely heard that it was in this over-hyped ridiculous article. So what if he gambles, you can't ASSUME that a gamling addict is going to steal money...and he clearly hasn't or that would have been highlighted as well. Penelope (and others) you are the exact person the media love to feed these stupid stories to. They throw it out there and you blow it out of proportion creating a witch hunt. Perhaps you should add that to your initial meeting with all your vendors...check if they have ever watched adult material. If so, don't think about selling their house or even going in...you could be at risk. His actions are completely legal - he's not a criminal.The content viewed it irrelevant. It is the fact he has stolen work time to look at personal sites.
Added by Geoffrey on 2009-12-10 11:47:49

What a sham I have read the E.T. transcript and it is clear that LLoyds cocked up with no knowledge how to manage the events. Yet whiter than white is not their personna, Paul Fisher has had to deal with addictions yet offered no support when Mr Stewart sought help and Tom Doyle is a regular attendee at Agency organised stag events for this purititanical industry, and yet would have us believe he is shocked by such behaviour.Strikes me got fingers burnt trying to shed expensive staff at downturn of business, picking up a legal bill rather than a dignified redundancy.How succesful is the office without this former manager?
Added by Big Gee on 2009-12-10 10:15:27

You all need to get a grip....which is exactly what got Mr Stewart into so much trouble!
Added by Penelope on 2009-12-10 08:46:37

I heard he was sacked from Lloyds Estate Agents in Lilliput and employed by Key Drummond who are the office next door to Lloyds. But in between these two jobs he worked for Richard Carr. Key Drummond/Scott Baines must know what he was sacked for or he would have been dismissed after the employment tribunal case hit the newspapers. Personally I wouldn't let him in my house. Seriously - has anyone considered what type of porn he might have been looking at? There is, I presume, acceptable and unacceptable porn. Also a gambler - surely someone with a gambling habit could be considered financially vulnerable and shouldn't be working in an industry where corruption is possible.
Added by Tim Mathers appreciation society on 2009-12-09 18:53:09

Does anyone know what website he was looking at? I've exhausted my supply
Added by Tim Mather on 2009-12-09 18:30:45

Good point Sally and a word of warning to those agents who take laptops with them on valuations.
If the vendor throws you out...you know what they are thinking.
Added by Sally McFern on 2009-12-09 18:03:00

Just shows you ... you never know who you are letting into your house ... except this agent in Sandbanks .... Key Drummond .... they clearly know who they are sending in to your house !?!
Added by Tim Mather on 2009-12-09 17:40:20

Blimey...he only looked at some porn (quite a lot in fact) but at the end of the day he is only a second hand house salesman. He is not running a convent.
Added by jimdan on 2009-12-09 17:35:02

Really these comments are not fair, no one has taken into account that this guy is problably addicted to such sites, gambling sites and porn sites are addictive to certain personalities. Lets be more adult about this and consider the feelings of others. I to was caught with my trousers down but my boss was a lot more considerate, he took the matter in hand, dealt with it and its not been discussed since.
Added by Mr Sait on 2009-12-09 17:29:48

I've just been directed to this site and I can't believe my eyes, I live in the area and I find it difficult to understand how anyone like this can still be working within the industry, do we as the public not have a right to know the sort of people we are letting into our homes and who we are trusting to do the best for us when selling our biggest single asset, namely our home, its outrageous.
Added by Simon Smithson on 2009-12-09 16:39:42

Just been told by another agent key Drummond and Scott Bains is the same agent - they who deal in the million pound plus market in Sandbanks - not very up market staff clearly !
Added by Simon Smithson on 2009-12-09 16:37:02

I understand he is still working for the same agent - how can they keep him on knowing this ? Is it Scott Bains which I m told is part of Key Drummond in Sandbanks ?
Added by Ray Evans on 2009-12-09 15:18:09

EW. The only boring person is you!
Added by Mr Brightmove on 2009-12-09 14:21:16

Well done to Lloyds for sacking this guy. What he was doing was neither in his employers or his clients best interests - but was obviously for his own personal gratification. Lets hope he has learnt his lesson and wont do it again at his place of business.
Added by EW on 2009-12-09 13:14:29

Its not about what he was looking at - it was the fact he was paid to work. Its taking money under false pretenses. He must have been good at his job if he could get away with it for years and still please his masters performance wise. I bet his new company has had a load of hoax calls though! And as for those of you who claim this banter is sooo unprofessional, all I can say is get a sense of humour. Look at Judges, MP's, teachers - this isnt harming anyone. God, some people are so boring.
Added by Angus Shield on 2009-12-09 13:09:45

This really highlights the importance of a rubust staff handbook or IT proceedures. The choice of his web browsing is unfortunate but the risk to compromising his employers IT by viral infections, trojans, etc (really no pun intended), would be a costly exercise for them to recover from and even possible allow client details unwittingly into the public domain - to my mind that is sackable under gross misconduct, abuse of company technology and even safe guard of private records. Every employers nightmare!
Added by Questionable on 2009-12-09 12:12:04

AceofSpades, did you really mean "SUCAKABLE" or was that just a slip of the wrist?
Added by AceofSpades on 2009-12-09 11:43:21

Spot on, Ray. It's unacceptable and is a sucakable offence. However, it doesn't make him a bad person and he's learnt his lesson. It's the same output as someone spending 3 hours a day on facebook. Following on from Ray, it's extremely fortunate for yourselves that your identity and pathetic views are masked from the public that you deal with. It appears there are many people on here, just as unprofessional as the gentleman in the article, just on another level. The fact that some of you are overseeing innocent people's property transactions is genuinely a scary thought. Private sales are increasing...grow up.
Added by Ray Evans on 2009-12-09 11:31:03

What disgusting posts most of these are.
Call yourselves professional business people?
Added by Peter on 2009-12-09 10:34:50

I suspect Paul Fisher said "your pulling my plonker" when he found out!
Added by Simon Thornton on 2009-12-09 10:33:04

Congratulations ! We needed a change of topic from the usual HIPS / RM / Google
Added by jim on 2009-12-09 10:24:24

yes its a dreadful business i heard of a similar case where a employee sued his company as he sustained a high speed masterbating injury during working hours.
Added by Monkey Tennis on 2009-12-09 10:23:46

shouldn't that be cums into contact with....
Added by Simon Whale on 2009-12-09 10:22:40

hundred of hours, he'll need to go to Specsavers
Added by Penelope on 2009-12-09 09:57:59

Presumably Scott Baines (the company he now works for) know of his dirty habits. However, I suspect he doesn't declare this to the vendors and applicants that he comes into contact with.
Added by Tim Mather on 2009-12-09 09:46:40

This is dreadful news for the industry.
A great many estate agents are w******.

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