Teacher sacked for missing meeting after finding out mum had cancer

A veteran music teacher who was sacked for skipping a staff meeting after finding out her mother had cancer has won more than £16,000 in compensation.

Jacqueline Dumigan, a piano and singing teacher who taught at the prestigious Mount School in Huddersfield for 24 years, was told to attend the gathering on her day off.

But she had to meet family members to discuss her 90 year old mother, who had just been diagnosed with cancer, and emailed the owner of the school to tell him she could not attend, an employment tribunal heard.

Owner of the school, Christopher Sellers, emailed her back telling her ‘resignation accepted,’ the panel was told.

Having sued the £9,000 a year school based in Edgerton, West Yorkshire, an employment judge decided Ms Dumigan had been unfairly dismissed, and awarded her damages of £16,800.

The tribunal in Leeds heard Ms Dumigan worked part time at the school for four to 11-year-olds, which Mr Sellers and his wife, Natalie, took over in 2017.

In December 2021, Mr Sellers sent an email telling all staff members to attend a compulsory meeting in the school.

Ms Dumigan had finished for the term so was not working on the day of the meeting, and would have needed to come in on her day off, the tribunal heard.

She told Mr Sellers she would not be able to attend because she was seeing her sister, who was travelling from a distance, but did not explain the reason why they were meeting, the panel heard.

The teacher was meeting her family members to discuss treatment and care for her elderly mother.

Mr Sellers responded to her email to tell her that the meeting was not optional, the panel heard.

When she told him again that she would not be able to make it, he replied: ‘resignation accepted’, the tribunal was told.

The teacher told Mr Sellers that she had not resigned, to which he replied telling her that the email was formal notice that her employment was to cease.

The tribunal heard Ms Dumigan was regarded by the school’s owner to be a ‘difficult’ staff member.

He admitted a ‘failing on his behalf’ in not carrying out a formal investigation into the matter.

Employment Judge Amir Jaleel concluded that Ms Dumigan had been unfairly dismissed.

Judge Jaleel said: ‘Mr Sellers did not carry out an investigation and accepts that he did not hold a formal disciplinary process before dismissing Ms Dumigan.

‘In his own evidence Mr Sellers did not think that an investigation or hearing was necessary.

‘I found that Mr Sellers had made up his mind about dismissing (Ms Dumigan) without ascertaining the facts regarding her refusal to attend the meeting by way of an investigation meeting.

‘She had finished for the term and in any event did not work on Mondays. She was essentially being asked to attend a meeting on her day off.’

Ms Dumigan – who also runs her own gin business – won a total of £16,802.31

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