One of the world’s most prestigious gentlemen’s clubs in London has been sued by a waiter claiming he was fired for accusing a male colleague of making ‘sexual passes’ to him.
Jean-Ange Chiappini worked at Brooks’s, one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in the world, frequented by politicians, peers and aristocrats.
He was fired as the company tried to recover from the lockdown last year, but claimed managers had been unfairly biased against him, after he complained that a fellow server had made ‘sexual passes’ at him “.
However, his wrongful dismissal claim failed as an employment tribunal ruled there was no bias in the dismissal process.
The judge branded assistant club secretary Alastair Curbbun ‘very harsh’ after handing the waiter a final written warning after traveling to his native France to see his elderly mother who was very ill with Covid and could have died, despite himself saying “go ahead”.
Waiter Jean-Ange Chiappini worked at Brooks’s, one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in the world (pictured), frequented by politicians, peers and aristocrats He is based on St James’s Street in London
Brooks’s is one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in the world. Pictured: The Great Subscription Room at Brooks’s Club, St. James’s Street. A print from ‘The Microcosm of London’, by William Henry Pyne (1770-1843). Illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Auguste Charles Pugin (1762-1832)
Former members of the elite establishment, formed in 1762, include Prime Minister William Pitt and William Wilberforce, one of the leaders of the movement to abolish the slave trade.
The court, held in central London, heard that Mr Chiappini started working at the 260-year-old club as a temporary worker in 2008 and was employed on a permanent basis from May 2017 as a as server in the Spencer room.
In February 2019, Mr Chiappini received an initial written warning from Mr Curbbun for eating in an area where he should not have eaten and for making club members wait before he could pay.
He claimed it was an example of being treated differently due to previous allegations of unwanted sexual attention from a colleague of his.
The court heard he claimed he repeatedly ‘denied Salvador’s sexual passes against me’ and that ‘work got so difficult’ that he even recorded an alleged encounter and filed a grievance.
However, the court heard the recording was listened to and it was not found to be harassment by the bosses.
Mr Curbbun told Mr Chiappini he viewed the taping as a ‘trap’ and added: ‘Your allegations of racial slurs and sexual advances cannot be proven and we cannot see who is at fault .”
“This has now resulted in poor staff morale and is affecting the business with poor customer service.”
He was told to stop making ‘constant’ and ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations because ‘all of your colleagues and supervisors have to deal with your daily trivialities’.
In March 2019, Mr Curbbun issued Mr Chiappini a second written warning for “wasting management time with false allegations”.
Mr Chiappini received an assessment in October 2019 and was told he “needed improvement” in several categories. He claimed it was unfair.
Mr Chiappini claimed a fellow ‘Salvator’ had made unwanted ‘sexual passes’ to him. The club’s assistant secretary issued a warning saying he was ‘wasting management time with false allegations’. The server at the exclusive London club received a final written warning after visiting his mum in France while she was sick with Covid, despite Mr Curbbun saying: ‘Go ahead’
On the same day, he received a call from his father saying his mother had caught coronavirus and was going to hospital.
The court heard that his parents lived in France, his mother was over 80 and his father was 92.
He left for France on dependents’ leave after explaining the situation to Mr Curbbun who said: “Go ahead.”
More than a week later, Mr. Curbbun emailed him inviting him to a disciplinary meeting, as he had not been in regular contact and Mr. Curbbun said the leave had never been officially authorized.
When he returned to work in the Palladian-style building on St James’s St in December, Mr Chiappini received a final written warning for unauthorized leave, but this was overturned on appeal.
Due to reduced operations and closures due to the pandemic, club secretary Ian Faul decided it was necessary to reduce the workforce through redundancies.
Regency gentlemen playing the Hazard card game at Brooks’ club. Pictured: hand colored copper plate drawn and engraved by Robert Cruikshank from The English Spy in 1825
Brooks’s Gentlemen’s Club: the story of one of the oldest private clubs in the world
- In January 1762, MM. Boothby and James started a private company at 50 Pall Mall after being ‘blackballed’ from a member of White’s
- This then split and the club that became Brooks (Almack’s) was founded in March 1764 by 27 noble Whigs (a former political party).
- These included the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Roxburghe, Lord Crewe and Lord Strathmore
- In September 1777 the wine merchant and moneylender William Brooks, who was master of Almack’s, commissioned a clubhouse on St James’s Street which was completed in October 1778.
- Allmack members were invited to join and they all moved
- However, Brooks himself died in poverty in 1782
At a meeting in February 2021, Mr. Chiappini was notified of his dismissal.
Labor judge Tamara Lewis said: ‘[Mr Chiappini] says Mr Curbbun was biased against him, which is clear from the ‘inhumane’ way he was treated in 2018/9 when he complained about his colleague’s harassment, and again about his visit in France.
“It seems harsh to have given him a warning for false allegations… However, that was a long time ago and everything seems to have been resolved.
“I think Mr. Curbbun’s attitude towards [Mr Chiappini’s] the absence to take care of his parents in France was indeed very hard. I am extremely surprised that he issued a final written warning about this.
“While I think the club could have been more sensitive on both issues, there is no evidence of a link to the redundancy marking.
“I am aware that this incident occurred only a few months before the dismissal exercise. However, this does not necessarily mean that Mr. Curbbun was generally biased against the plaintiff.
“It could just mean he’s a tough manager, or tough about this kind of issue, or maybe he was feeling the pressures of the pandemic himself.
“I also note that the assessment, which is consistent with the redundancy marking, was undertaken prior to the France incident, so the France incident cannot be said to have unfairly infected managers’ opinions against [him].’
Mr. Chiappini’s complaint of unfair dismissal was dismissed.