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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
Telegraph reporters

Jimmy Choo tutor wins bullying claim after manager questioned work from home day

Jimmy Choo, shoe designer
Jimmy Choo, shoe designer

A fashion tutor who taught Jimmy Choo has won a bullying claim after her manager questioned her working from home one day a week, a tribunal has ruled.

Chris Hill was driven to quit her role as a lecturer at the University of Northampton after she was “singled out” by Vicki Dean, an employment tribunal heard.

The footwear expert claimed Ms Dean raised an issue with her working from home on Fridays and would schedule meetings on that day, even though she had worked remotely for almost four years prior.

Ms Hill is now in line for compensation after a panel found her manager was "needlessly asserting her authority", creating a hostile environment and bullying her.

Ms Hill's appointment as footwear and accessories lecturer in 2015 was celebrated by the university. Amongst her achievements in the industry, she had been the first female lecturer at Cordwainers Technical College, where she taught Mr Choo.

She set up shoe design courses for the London College of Fashion and Central St Martins and also worked as head of footwear for luxury brand Hobbs, before joining the Northampton campus.

Chris Hill has over 30 years’ experience in the footwear industry
Chris Hill has over 30 years’ experience in the footwear industry

The panel in Cambridge heard Ms Dean took over managing Ms Hill in early 2019. By the summer of that year, she concluded Ms Dean was "singling her out" and "effectively bullying her", the hearing was told.

The panel heard Ms Hill was struggling with the fashion department meeting being moved to 4pm on a Thursday, as it would usually last four hours and hampered her ability to get home to Yorkshire.

The hearing was told Ms Dean began to schedule meetings on Fridays, when Ms Hill was working from home. In June 2019, she began to query why Ms Hill did not work that day.

Upholding her unfair dismissal claim, employment judge Roger Tynan concluded that Ms Dean was "fully aware" of Ms Hill’s "established and agreed working arrangements, but for some reason became irritated with them when she was not immediately available or contactable on one occasion".

He added: “The fact she reacted as she did in such circumstances is revealing in terms of Ms Dean’s attitude and approach towards Ms Hill, and I find it is consistent with bullying.”

A hearing to determine Ms Hill’s compensation will be held at a later date. 

A University of Northampton spokesman said: “We were disappointed with the outcome and are carefully considering the detail of the reserved judgment by Judge Tynan with our legal team before deciding next steps.”

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