The former head of a medical charity claims her employer, Lord Winston, fired her after raising concerns about alleged wrongdoing, a tribunal heard.
Dyan Sterling, former chairman of the board of directors of the Genesis Research Trust, is suing IVF pioneer Lord Winston after announcing plans to fire her at a board meeting.
The decision was made just six hours after warning the charity was in danger of breaking the law.
Sterling alleges trustees based at Imperial College London were unwilling to report a conflict of interest after receiving donations of £ 2.3 million.
Dyan Sterling, former chairman of the board of directors of the Genesis Research Trust, is suing IVF pioneer Lord Winston (pictured) after announcing plans to fire her at a board meeting
The former manager, who earned £ 50,000 more than the next highest income employee, claims she was "punished" for whistleblowing.
However, Professor Lord Winston denies the claim, saying the layoff was part of a cost-cutting plan to secure the charity's future.
The Central London Labor Court was told that the charity was looking into a £ 500,000 funding shortage and would have to make cuts.
In a testimony, Lord Winston said at a meeting with the Trustees that he discovered that the charity had been losing money for some time.
Ms. Sterling had failed to resolve the situation in the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation and the gift was unlikely to significantly reduce the ongoing deficit.
A London tribunal heard that Lord Winston's charity successfully applied for funding from the Angela Pattman Scholarship Fund earlier this year.
The fund awards scholarships to medical students at Imperial College London.
However, the Genesis Research Trust, which funds research on reproductive health such as miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births, only funded postgraduate research and had no previous experience with students.
The Trust was established in 1978 and Lord Winston has served as Chairman since 1988.
Fearing that Imperial College London might sue the funds because they had a better claim on them, the Trustees considered sending the money directly to the college.
On July 13, in response to the possible move, Sterling sent a letter to Lord Winston saying that the Trustees might break the Charity Act if they carried out their plan and that there were serious compliance issues.
She insisted on an independent review and involvement of the Charity Commission, but six hours later Lord Winston proposed a board meeting to make Sterling redundant.
Sterling requested that the meeting be postponed, but it went on without her and no minutes were taken for the meeting.
Lord Winston declined an internal investigation after Sterling complained, saying her allegations were "baseless or merited."
When Sterling made a second complaint, there was no response.
One of the trustees, Ms. Linda Loftus, held a consultation session on the dismissal on July 30, 2020, the preliminary hearing was told.
She was then fired via email last month with no final redundancy counseling session where employees didn't have a boss to approve management issues like payments or holidays.
The Central London Labor Court (pictured) has been told the charity is looking into a £ 500,000 funding shortage and is about to make cuts
The trust gave her no notice, and she was not asked to make a surrender, there was no leaving, and none of the trustees said goodbye to her.
Ms. Sterling said none of the circumstances of her departure were consistent with a normal discharge process.
Office manager Stephen Button emailed her saying, “I'm sorry to say that Robert Winston asked for your account to be closed last week.
“I am even sadder to say that he made it very clear that I cannot discuss anything with you in the current situation. I can't answer questions unless directed by the trustees. & # 39;
Ms Sterling said this was clearly in contradiction to claims that if the charity restructured, she would simply be fired.
The charity says it has experienced a financial crisis that has lasted for years. The layoff was genuine and Ms. Sterling was by far the most expensive employee.
It was in her best interest to get her released quickly before she'd served two years and petitioned for unjustified discharge.
Lord Winston explained the redundancy: "This means that the Trust would significantly reduce its staff, administration and costs by restricting outside activities and events where possible, and by using fewer donations and promotions."
So far, Ms. Sterling is the only employee made redundant by the charity.
Ms. Sterling is filing for Wrong Dismissal, Automatic Wrong Discharge for Protected Disclosure, and Protected Disclosure Damage to both the charity and Lord Winston.
In a preliminary hearing, the tribunal concluded that it was likely that Ms. Sterling was "singled out", but there is also evidence that there was a "real dismissal situation" prior to her release.
A verdict from the tribunal hearing read: “Professor Lord Winston contends that Ms. Sterling has been dismissed on what may be fair grounds for dismissal.
"Ms Sterling claims the dismissal was a sham and that she was fired not for being fired but for alleged disclosure."
A London tribunal will make a final decision at an upcoming four-day hearing.
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