Fake Reference Costs Employee £4,725

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An employee has been ordered to pay his employer £4,725 after he provided a fictitious reference, using the name of a Star Wars Character.

Damages from employee

It is not often that we see tribunal ruling where the employee is ordered to pay their employer damages. However, this is exactly what happened in Francis-McGann v West Atlantic UK ltd 2018.

Mr Francis-McGann (F) a qualified pilot, applied for a job as an airline captain with West Atlantic UK (W). In his application F stated that he had previous experience working as an airline Captain. He also provided a pre-prepared reference from a Desilijic Tiure as confirmation. This is the alternative name used by Jabba the Hut.

F was successful, and W provided him with induction training which was based on his falsely stated experience as an airline captain.

W subsequently discovered that the reference provided was fake and F didn’t actually have any experience as an airline captain at all. This amounted to Gross misconduct. However, whilst W could have summarily dismissed F at that point, he was given the opportunity to resign with immediate effect instead. He did so but then rather brazenly took W to the tribunal where he claimed breach of contract and three months’ notice pay.

Under the Employment Tribunal Act 1996 an employer can bring a counterclaim where the employee alleges a breach of contract claim on termination of employment. W counterclaimed against F for recovery of its training costs which were £4,725. The tribunal noted that F might not have been appointed if W had known he had not previously been a captain. It also highlighted that the potential consequences of his fabricated experience could have been catastrophic.

Tribunal Ruling

The tribunal went on to dismiss Fs breach of contract claim but upheld W’s counterclaim. F was ordered to repay W £4725 for the training costs it incurred.

Advice

This situation could have been avoided if the employer had in place robust reference verification checks. Never accept pre-prepared references at face value. Either confirm its content with the purported referee or make your own reference request directly to an applicant nominated referee. To comply with GDPR you will need the applicant’s prior written consent to approach the referee.