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Employment Law Specialists

Groundbreaking whistleblowing case which made new law and attracted an award of over £2 million

Alexander Osipov v (1) Frank Timis (2) Antony Sage (Protect intervening)– CoA [2018] EWCA Civ 2321

Our client, Mr Osipov was employed by International Petroleum Ltd as CEO. Mr Timis and Mr Sage were two of IPL’s directors and Mr Timis was its largest shareholder.

Mr Osipov was summarily dismissed in October 2014, purportedly due to a breakdown in trust and confidence caused by Mr Osipov’s failure to comply with his duties and him being disruptive. He brought claims for automatic unfair dismissal due to whistleblowing, whistleblowing detriment, ordinary unfair dismissal.

The Tribunal found that he was dismissed because he was a whistleblower. He had made a number of protected disclosures relating to theft, corruption, bribery and breach of corporate governance requirements. His dismissal was therefore automatically unfair. The Tribunal also found that Mr Timis and Mr Sage subjected Mr Osipov to detriments, Mr Timis for giving the instruction to dismiss; Mr Sage for carrying it out. Accordingly, they were jointly liable for the compensation awarded to Mr Osipov of c. £1.7 million.

An appeal to the EAT contained a number of grounds of appeal and cross-appeal, the most significant of which being whether deciding to dismiss and effecting the dismissal were detriments for which Mr Timis and Mr Sage could be held personally liable. The EAT dismissed Mr Timis’ and Mr Sage’s appeals on this point and held that individuals can be held liable for the decision to dismiss an employee (whereas a claim for the dismissal itself can only be brought against the employer). This decision was groundbreaking, clarifying the law as to the remedy available to whistleblowers who are dismissed.

Mr Timis and Mr Sage appealed to the Court of Appeal. Protect, the whistleblowing charity, intervened. The appeal was dismissed. The Court of Appeal found that it was open to employees to bring claims for whistleblowing detriment against individuals who were party to the decision to dismiss them and against the employer for unfair dismissal. If an individual is found to be liable for the detriment of deciding to dismiss the claimant, they will be liable for losses flowing from the dismissal.

Mr Osipov’s final award of damages was in excess of £2 million, one of the highest sums ever awarded by an Employment Tribunal.

The team of BDBF lawyers acting in this case was Gareth Brahams and Nick Wilcox.