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Employee threatened to accuse boss of affair unless she got payoff

A 22-year-old marketing coordinator threatened to falsely accuse her female boss of having a secret affair unless she gave her a pay off to leave the company, an employment tribunal has heard.

In a ‘calculated and premeditated’ move, Hortence Yagmur told Marketing Communications Manager at Armstrong Ceiling Solutions Isabel Blanco she would report her after claiming to have been told she was in an ‘on-off’ relationship with a senior colleague.

In a ‘scurrilous’ attempt to pressure her, the then-22-year-old went on to demand a year’s salary to leave her job after previously having said she would resign following a series of disputes with Ms Blanco over her working conduct.

She later took her employer to a tribunal claiming she was the victim of age and disability discrimination – but her case was thrown out and her actions condemned by the panel.

Hortence Yagmur, who was 22 at the time of leaving the company, made ‘scurrilous allegations of sexual impropriety’ the tribunal concluded

The tribunal ruled that Ms Yagmur sought ‘to put pressure on Ms Blanco to negotiate a pay out on her behalf by threatening to make untruthful and damaging allegations against her if she refused to do so.’

The panel added: ‘This was calculated and premeditated.She tried to coerce Ms Blanco into negotiating an exit package for her by threatening to make scurrilous allegations of sexual impropriety against her.’

The hearing in Watford was told Westminster University graduate Ms Yagmur had joined West London firm Armstrong Ceiling Solutions as a Marketing Co-ordinator in April 2019.

At the time she was about to turn 22 and was the youngest member of staff.

By September 2019 Ms Blanco began receiving reports from colleagues that Ms Yagmur was spending a lot of time on her mobile phone and was away from her desk for ‘long periods’ of up to 40 minutes, the hearing was told.

In one three hour meeting, it was heard she left three times with her phone and was absent for up to 20 minutes. 

The tribunal heard when Ms Blanco raised the issue with her, Ms Yagmur became ‘outraged’ and ’emotional’.

This was the first in a series of disagreements – the following month the pair had a dispute after Ms Blanco refused to order business cards for her. 

Five days later the 22-year-old left her desk for more than hour and was seen on her phone.

Separately, Ms Yagmur submitted a £900 expenses claim following the cancellation of a flight on a work trip to Germany.

Isabel Blanco, who was the claimant’s superior, has since ceased working for Armstrong Ceiling Solutions

The tribunal heard there was an error in her claim which meant it wasn’t paid straight away. 

In response to the delay, Ms Yagmur emailed the accounts team and wrote: ‘I do not earn my salary to finance the company’. 

Ms Blanco told her that behaviour had been ‘unprofessional and argumentative’, a point Ms Yagmur refused to accept, the tribunal heard.

The following day the pair met again to discuss the expenses claim as well as other issues ‘relating to her attitude and tone and continued problems relating to her time away from her desk’.

During this meeting Ms Blanco told Ms Yagmur she would have to speak to HR about it, and Ms Yagmur’s flexible working agreement was suspended for three months.

Shortly afterwards Ms Yagmur had another disagreement with her employer after she refused to use the company’s usual taxi company to take her to the airport.

At a meeting at the end of November 2019 the young employee told Ms Blanco the events had taken a toll on her mental health and she felt she needed to resign.

The tribunal heard she asked for financial support from the company and became annoyed when Ms Blanco said she would not help her negotiate a settlement.

Ms Yagmur then told Ms Blanco that two months previously a senior colleague had told her he was having an ‘on-off affair’ with her.

According to the tribunal report, this left Ms Blanco ‘uncomfortable and confused and affected her mental health’, and she was very ‘offended’ by the allegation.

The report continues: ‘Shortly thereafter, (Ms Yagmur) said that it would be better for Ms Blanco to approach HR about her decision to resign, because if she spoke to HR she would have to tell them everything including the allegation about the affair.

‘Ms Blanco said that (Ms Yagmur) was very calm during this exchange.’

Ms Blanco’s notes of this meeting stated she had made ‘exceptions for (Ms Yagmur) as she is still so young and inexperienced and gave her the benefit of the doubt on many occasions.

‘I now feel like she has totally abused my trust and thrown all my effort and help with her back in my face’.

Ms Yagmur, who represented herself at the tribunal, told the panel that the information she claimed to have received about Ms Blanco having an affair ‘made me question whether her personal relationship with [the senior colleague] was something to do with her being in a managerial position’.

When asked to clarify this statement, she denied that she meant ‘Ms Blanco had got her job by sleeping with a senior colleague.’

The following month Ms Yagmur told the head of HR she was resigning and that she was looking for digitain 12 months’ salary in compensation or help to pay her rent for nine months.

The company refused and offered her a month’s pay in lieu of notice instead, accepting her resignation.

Ms Yagmur then complained she had been the victim of age and disability discrimination.

However, the panel – chaired by Employment Judge Akua Reindorf – rejected her case.

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