Judge sets aside B tribunal decision

By Roger Pearson

Hachette Filipacchi is locked in a legal battle with a former rising star, ex-B editor- in-chief Gina Johnson, after the publisher made her redundant when a special project she was spearheading failed.

Johnson took Hachette to an employment tribunal in 2004 and won a judgment that she had been unfairly dismissed following the collapse of a new launch codenamed Project Penny. But a judge has now overturned the ruling.

Johnson was lured from Australia to edit B in 1999, and was at the title when she put together a proposal for the new launch, moving over to work on the project full time in late 2003.

She was replaced at B by Fran Sheen, who undertook a major revamp of the women’s glossy, and when the company decided the new launch was too much of a risk, it did not offer Johnson her old job back.

After she applied for two other posts in the company and was rejected, she was made redundant in April 2004.

The chairman of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Judge Richardson, this month set the original ruling aside and sent the case back to the tribunal for a rethink, saying that in some aspects of the decision there had been “no real process of reasoning”.

The publisher backed Project Penny with about £70,000 for a market research dummy and appointed Johnson as project director but, Judge Richardson said, it was made clear in writing that if the project did not go ahead she faced the possibility of redundancy.

The original tribunal had said Hachette had failed in its duty to properly consult with Johnson over her redundancy, but Judge Richardson said: “It is plain that Mrs Johnson was dismissed and it is plain that Hachette Filipacchi’s requirements for a project director for Project Penny had ceased”.

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