A former University of Southampton professor has been awarded the sum of £2.5 million after claiming that he was discriminated against whilst working at the institution and no representative of the University turned up to the tribunal hearing. The University has begun legal proceedings to appeal.
Richard Werner, who worked as a Professor of International Banking at Southampton between April 2004 and July 2018, argued that his German nationality and Christian religion had led to him being a victim of ‘harassment and bullying‘ during his 14 year tenure at the University. His allegations included the claims that he was prohibited from undertaking a period of sabbatical leave to work on a book, despite colleagues being afforded the same right, that he was denied holiday pay, and was not considered for promotion on the basis of his ‘nationality and Christianity‘. After no representative of the University turned up to the relevant employment tribunal, Professor Werner was awarded £2.5 million.
In light of national coverage of the tribunal award, the University has today issued a statement, confirming that they are appealing the judgment:
The University has ordered an urgent investigation by its independent auditors into why it was not able to present its evidence at the Tribunal.
The University categorically denies the claims made, and we have today commenced legal proceedings to get the judgement overturned.
Professor Werner, whose website notes that he has taught all over the world, from Moscow State University to Sophia University, Tokyo, and who coined the term “quantitative easing” in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, resigned from Southampton at the end of the last academic year after he claimed he had been the subject of numerous investigations.
The hearing, which lasted around 90 minutes, was not attended by a representative of the University, meaning that the judge felt compelled to award the full sum requested by Professor Werner, who now teaches at De Montfort University, Leicester, and lives in Winchester.
Speaking at the tribunal hearing held in West Hampshire Magistrates’ Court, less than 3 kilometres from Highfield Campus, presiding Employment Judge Mark Emerton said to Professor Werner, ‘Consider yourself lucky that the university failed to be here today as if they did attend you would have got less because they would have argued some of the claims. The university’s failure to engage in the process has been to your considerable advantage’.
Commenting on the case, Conservative MP and chair of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said that it was an ‘extraordinary abuse and waste of taxpayers’ and students’ money, especially when hard-pressed students will have to spend thousands of pounds paying their loans back’.
When contacted for comment by the Daily Mail, a University of Southampton spokesman said, ‘the university strenuously rejects the assertion that any sum is due to Professor Richard Werner’.