Gagging orders given to plaintiff in Computacenter case

Former technical director gains some respite

Gagging orders from giant corporate reseller Computacenter have been passed to a former senior executive who is suing the company for millions of pounds. Dr Mark Sawicki’s case of discrimination was allowed to proceed after a UK Employment Tribunal tossed out Computacenter’s objection that the former engineer had signed a £52,000 deal to keep quiet. Sawicki said today the victory meant other former employees now believed the gagging contracts they have signed were also invalid, and they were supplying them to him to help prove his case. If Sawicki wins his case, he is seeking the 300,000 Computacenter shares he would have had if not asked to leave by company managing director Philip Hulme. He said current value was about £1.3 million but he would seek an equivalent value to the shares at their 12 month peak - currently about £3m. Sawicki is claiming discrimination because he was not able to take the share options with him when he left the company, unlike other executives who have also left. "We were much less believing in ourselves than the judges at the tribunal were. It now takes the case to complex levels because we will have to prove everything is linked," he said. Sawicki said a salesman called him a ‘bloody Pole’ in 1991 without fear of reprimand because of a high sales record as an example of racism going unchecked. He said he needed to link these with his sacking in 1995. Company secretary Alan Pottinger said last week that the contracts, called Compromise Agreements, were used in cases where it makes it easier for staff to leave the company. The number signed was in double figures. Two recent contracts signed were with former maintenance staff, whose complaints in 1994 sparked a four year investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality which is due to finish in November. The Employment Tribunal is also due to decide the sexual discrimination case of Caroline Olds, found to have been unfairly dismissed by Computacenter two years ago. ®

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