Jurisdiction - Hong Kong
Hong Kong – Decisions To Dismiss.

8 April, 2014


Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Hong Kong – Labour & Employment


The case of Grant David Williams v Jeffries Hong Kong Limited [2013] HKEC 1084 illustrates just how important it is to properly arrive at a decision to dismiss, and just how expensive it can be if you don’t.

Mr Williams was summarily dismissed from his role as Managing Director, Head of Equity Trading Asia of Jeffries HK, when a daily newsletter was accidentally sent to a client distribution list without prior approval. The newsletter included a video link about Adolph Hitler and a jovial jibe at a competitor’s CEO. Jeffries held Mr Williams accountable and summarily dismissed him for ‘unacceptable and entirely inappropriate misconduct’. Mr Williams was not given an opportunity to defend himself or explain that the newsletter had been accidentally distributed by a personal assistant in the New York office, and not by him.

Irrational And Patently Unfair

In his claim for breach of contract and wrongful dismissal, the court sided with Mr Williams, finding that his dismissal was ‘irrational and patently unfair’. The manner in which the internal investigation was conducted fell short of what was required in the circumstances: Jeffries had breached the implied duty of trust and confidence that exists between an employer and employee.

Costly Exercise

In determining quantum the judge not only awarded Mr Williams his unpaid notice pay (HKD 6,862,434.81) but also damages in the sum of HKD 7,700,000 and costs on an indemnity basis.

Although there is no unfair dismissal regime in Hong Kong, employers must tread carefully when dismissing employees: the implied duty of trust and confidence still exists, and employees must be afforded a fair opportunity to defend themselves, particularly against allegations which affect their reputation.


herbert smith Freehills


For further information, please contact:


Fatim Jumabhoy, Herbert Smith Freehills

[email protected]


Homegrown Labour & Employment Law Firms in Hong Kong 


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