Football charity told to pay almost £14,000 to former employee

A football charity has been told to pay almost £14,000 to a former employee after an employment tribunal ruled he had been victimised. 

An employment tribunal ruling published this week shows that Colchester United's Football in the Community charity was ordered to pay Mark Harris, a former community development officer at the charity, a total of £13,822.

The figure includes loss of income and injury to feelings plus interest. 

The tribunal documents show that Harris had struggled to find work since his dismissal in April 2019.

He had also limited his search for work partly because he felt embarrassed that a DBS check would reveal a community resolution order resulting from a clash with the football club's chairman.

An earlier tribunal in April heard how Robbie Cowling, chairman and owner of the League Two club, claimed he had been “headbutted” by Harris during a foul-mouthed row.

Cowling, who is also the chair of the charity, argued with Harris after a grievance meeting following his dismissal, the judgment said.

In footage of the row, which was caught on CCTV, the pair can be seen swearing at each other in a corridor, where Harris claims Cowling called him a “f***ing c***”.

Cowling alleges Harris “head-butted” him, but the CCTV footage shows Harris “barging into him, stomach first”, the ruling said.

Both men complained to the police.

Harris lodged a grievance in May 2019, which was dismissed on 13 July of the same year, but an appeal took place.

He told the tribunal his first 10 months at the charity “went well” until December 2018, when he supported a female colleague who resigned at her grievance meeting.

The tribunal found the attitude of Harris' boss Corin Haines, the charity's chief executive, toward him changed after that.

Haines then dismissed Harris on 5 April 2019, alleging his role was “not viable” because the traineeship programme Harris was organising, which was said to be necessary to provide the income needed to pay him, was no longer going to take place.

This was despite Harris’ role never before being linked with a project’s costing or financial return, the tribunal was told.

Harris said Haines used this as an excuse to sack him, said the judgment.

In the earlier ruling, employment judge Paul Housego said: “Neither Mr Harris nor Mr Cowling come out of this episode with any credit. Mr Harris appeared the more ashamed of the two about the incident.”

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