High standard required to justify summary dismissal

In a recent case in the Hong Kong High Court, Grant David Vincent Williams v Jefferies Hong Kong Limited - HCA 320/2011, the Plaintiff, Grant Williams, was successful in his claim for wrongful termination by way of summary dismissal and breach of the implied term of trust and confidence against the Defendant, Jefferies Hong Kong Limited. He was awarded over HK$15.8 million in damages plus (unusually) costs to be paid to him on an indemnity basis. This case is an important reminder that the standard required to justify a summary dismissal in Hong Kong is very high and that before making a decision to summarily dismiss an employee, an employer should carry out a thorough information gathering exercise to ascertain what the employee has allegedly done to justify the summary dismissal. It is also worth noting the court's criticism of the Defendant's conduct in making the award of indemnity costs which included: a failure to adduce evidence from the decision makers (the Defendant's senior management in the US); withholding of key email communications and other records; and a 'wasteful and unconstructive' approach to settlement. Employers should take a careful and cautious approach to any litigation and seek legal advice where required.

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