Royal Academy of Music must pay wrongfully dismissed lecturer £187,000

Francesa Carpos-Young was fired for gross misconduct in 2017 after students complained about lecture notes that said violinists in orchestras were often referred to as 'gypos'

The Royal Academy of Music has been ordered to pay a former lecturer more than £187,000 after an employment tribunal held last year found she had been victimised and wrongfully dismissed for telling students that violinists were referred to by people in orchestras as "gypos".

Francesca Carpos-Young was dismissed for gross misconduct in 2017 two months into her role as a part-time lecturer because of complaints from students about lecture notes she had circulated that included the offensive term, which she said was used regularly in orchestras.

The lecture was designed to give students practical information about how orchestras operate and some of the terms they might hear.

The lecture notes led to an open letter being written by students complaining about her notes.

A follow-up email from Carpos-Young in which she defended herself was also criticised in the open letter as "entirely inadequate", the tribunal judgment said.

Other students had defended Carpos-Young in emails to the president of the academy’s students’ union.

A meeting was then arranged with the deputy principal for programmes and research at the academy and a member of the charity’s HR team, at which Carpos-Young was dismissed without notice.

A press statement was then sent out by the academy about Carpos-Young’s sacking.

Carpos-Young appealed the dismissal on the grounds that she was whistleblowing on discriminatory practices in the classical music industry by highlighting the use of the offensive term in her lecture notes and also about a lack of process in her dismissal.

The tribunal could not consider unfair dismissal because Carpos-Young had been in post for less than two years, but determined that the academy did wrongfully dismiss her.

The tribunal found that Carpos-Young had probably been naive but said that the mistake she made was not so serious "as to fatally damage confidence and trust in her".

Claims of victimisation were also upheld by the tribunal.

The tribunal concluded: "The respondent sought to argue she was being dismissed for poor judgment – that she had caused the mess – and that this should be distinguished from what she had or had not said about discrimination.

"We did not agree that it was about her poor judgement in circulating the notes. She was dismissed because allegations were being made that academy staff had discriminated."

The award of £186,181 to Carpos-Young reflected past and future loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

She was awarded a further £945.54 for the charity’s failure to allow her to be accompanied at the dismissal meeting.

The Royal Academy of Music declined to comment on the tribunal’s decision.

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