MEMO TO ALL STAFF
From: Matt Mattley, Managing Partner
Re: Inappropriate behaviour
1. On or about Wednesday 14th February I received a Valentine’s Day card from a person(s) unknown.
2. The envelope, addressed to me personally, had been franked, using the firm’s franking machine. There is no record in the new electronic fees system of this postage cost being attributed to a client of the firm.
3. The card was inscribed with the message “Hi bigboy…. we know you like to give the opposition a hard time. Would you like to give me a hard time 2nite?”
4. The card was accompanied by a bunch of roses and foliage of varied types.
My response to this is as follows:
We have spent a great deal of (otherwise chargeable) time and money positioning ourselves in the market with marketing and what some of our competitors are now referring to as ‘piracy’. As you know, it is my practice to read The Lawyer to see who is acting for whom and then pop over to ‘whom’ and do a bit of negotiation on fees. We have also invested heavily in our innovative and highly popular ‘Trainee Blog’ – which, I am bound to say, while not meeting with universal approval, is very appealing to prospective applicants to our firm and, therefore, ensures that our firm is able to compete with the other leading firms and recruit suitably educated trainees who will contribute to the wealth of the partners. Please bear this in mind. We have to set an example. I would not wish to get up on a Friday morning and find our firm being mocked on RollonFriday.
As to point 2 of my memo: The cost of the postage of the card, while modest, has not been ‘attributed or allocated’ to a client. The cost is, therefore, a drain on the wealth of the partners. This is an important principle. It is also theft under s.1 Theft Act 1968. There is a difference between a ‘toppy bill’ and downright dishonesty in appropriating property belonging to the partners with the dishonest intention of permanently depriving the partners of that property.
As to point 3 of my memo: While I take no personal exception to the statement recorded in the card and may well follow up on the invitation when our internal security unit find the originator of the card, it is important to bear in mind the free advice provided by competitor firm Peninsula in their illuminating Valentine’s Day briefing (we are always grateful when rival firms provide us with knowledge which we can then re-sell. ) Peninsula point out that such a remark could well be construed, to those of a sensitive disposition, as ‘an unwanted sexual advance from a colleague.’ and amount to harrassment – which can be very costly these days – quite rightly. You will, through our excellent CPD programme, be familiar with the right of Employment Tribunals to make ‘uncapped awards’. I also quote Mr Mooney’s comments from the Pensinsula briefing – which sent a shiver down my spine: “And the cost of losing a High Court case for harassment can sometimes run into the millions.”
As to point 4 of my memo: The sending of any product likely to result in physical or psychological injury could well lead to personal injury litigation. I quote from the Peninsula briefing: “In the most extreme example, bosses can even get into trouble if one worker is sent a large bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day.
The leaflet says: “If you have one employee who has bad hayfever, or a similar allergy, sat next to a member of staff who receives a lot of flowers, the employer could be in breach of their duty to provide an amenable working environment.”
I hope that I have made my point? If you have not seen the Peninsula Employment Law briefing, you may view it here