A former Leeds United employee was sacked because she came “as a pair” with her partner who left his position as head coach, a tribunal heard.
The football club is currently involved in a twin unfair dismissal and sex discrimination tribunal against Lucy Ward, 41, the former head of education and welfare at the boys academy for Leeds United.
Miss Ward, who was in a relationship with Neil Redfearn, Leeds United head coach, was suspended from the club in July 2015.
Previous reports said the suspension was for gross misconduct after taking too much holiday while on BBC duty in Canada for the Women’s World Cup.
Now a tribunal in Leeds, West Yorks., has heard there were “strong football rumours” that Miss Ward would be sacked shortly after Mr Redfearn.
Miss Ward told the court that Mr Redfearn was put on “garden leave” just five minutes before she was suspended.
She said: “Neil Redfearn was put on garden leave on July 3 about five minutes before I was suspended.”
The court also heard that Miss Ward had been locked out of her office and the locks had been changed on her doors without her knowledge in May – two months before her suspension.
During evidence by businessman Ismail Ghandour, the tribunal heard that Adam Pearson, Executive Director of Leeds United, had told Mr Ghandour that “Mr Cellino sees them [Miss Ward and Mr Redfearn] as a pair”.
Mr Ghandour said: “I had a meeting with Adam Pearson on, I think, June 23 and I asked him about the rumours that Lucy was going to be next to go.
“I told him that I understand managers come and go but why Lucy?
“Adam Pearson said that Mr Cellino sees them as a pair.”
Miss Ward described her suspension and subsequent disciplinary hearing as “bewildering for me having been a committed member of staff”.
Referring to her disciplinary hearing, Miss Ward explained that she had asked Mr Pearson why he was not speaking to any other members of staff about annual leave.
Miss Ward said: “Plenty of times during the disciplinary hearing I asked why he was speaking to me and not any other members of staff.
“He said he wasn’t interested in anyone else, just me.”
When asked why she didn’t raise the point in her disciplinary hearing that Mr Cellino believed her and Mr Redfearn came “as a pair”, Miss Ward said: “I never raised that fact because I expected a man of Mr Pearson’s standing to complete a thorough and fair investigation.
“I didn’t think he would follow somebody else’s wishes because of my relationship with Neil.
“I thought he would be more honourable than that.”
Referring to being locked out of her office, Miss Ward acknowledged that the offices were being restructured but claimed her colleagues had been told not to inform her of the change in locks.
Miss Ward said: “The person who I shared my office with told me that the locks on my office door had been changed.
“She told me that she had been told under no circumstances was she to tell me that the locks had been changed in my office.”
The tribunal continues.
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