BP subsidiary unfairly dismissed inventor of UK's first car charging ports

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A tribunal ruled that the inventor had been promised that he could keep his share options. Photo: Getty

An employment tribunal on Thursday found that a subsidiary of oil giant BP (BP.L) unfairly dismissed Calvey Taylor-Haw, an inventor who designed and built the first car charging ports in the UK.

Watford Employment Tribunal also ruled that Taylor-Haw had been promised by Chargemaster that he would be able to keep share options that are now valued at £1m ($1.2m).

Taylor-Haw lost the options when he left the company.

Former Chargemaster CEO David Martell had told the tribunal that Taylor-Haw had not raised the issue of keeping his share options until after the company was acquired by BP for £130m in July 2018, more than eight months after he was formally dismissed.

Noting that the share options were not “worthless” in October 2017 like Martell had claimed, employment judge Jack said they were important to Taylor-Haw as his pension pot.

“I find it unlikely that he wouldn’t have raised the issue regarding share options at the redundancy meeting,” the judge said in his ruling.

“I find as a matter of fact that during the redundancy meetings, the share options were discussed and that Mr Martell assured [Taylor-Haw] that he would still receive his options.”

If he had not been promised his share options, the judge ruled, he would have made “much more of a fuss about his dismissal.”

READ MORE: Inventor of UK's first car charging ports sues BP subsidiary for £1m in shares row

‘Grievous failures’

The judge also said in his ruling that lawyers acting for Chargemaster had made “grievous failures to disclose documents.”

The company had asserted that the inventor was dismissed from his role as director of partnerships partly because he had failed to meet sales targets, offering what the judge called “rather precise” revenue figures as evidence.

But Chargemaster did not present to the tribunal financial documents substantiating these figures, something the judge called “astonishing.”

Chargemaster lawyer Joseph Bryan told the judge that “a reasonable search” for the financial documents had been carried out, noting that in-house BP lawyers had instructed relevant parties not to destroy documents.

BP did not respond to a request for comment.

Taylor-Haw had told the tribunal on Thursday that the purported sales targets were only once communicated to him in a “flippant conversation” with his line manager, Mark Bonnor-Morris.

Asked by Bryan if he thought internal Chargemaster emails demonstrated that the targets were not “flippantly bandied about,” Taylor-Haw agreed that they may have been “carefully thought through.”

“And if they were put to me formally, I might have told them they were not achievable,” the inventor said.

Martell claimed at the hearing on Wednesday that the targets had been communicated to Taylor-Haw several times.

While Taylor-Haw said he had “no sight” of the revenue figures, he said he believed that the revenue from deals he had been involved in, such as one with Hitachi Capital, would have been more than Chargemaster had claimed.

A car charging point in London designed by Elektromotive, the company the inventor founded. It was subsequently acquired by Chargemaster. Photo: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

No redundancy situation

That his role was at risk of redundancy was first mentioned to Taylor-Haw in August 2017, just five months after he had moved into the director of partnerships role.

Employment judge Jack ruled that Taylor-Haw, in that role, was performing work similar to that of other salespeople within the company, and that this type of work had not diminished at the firm.

“Accordingly, in my judgement, there was no redundancy situation,” the judge said.

He noted that the company sought to recruit another business development manager in November 2017, weeks after Taylor-Haw was formally told he was being made redundant.

He therefore ruled that Taylor-Haw had been unfairly dismissed from the company, and adjourned the case until 29 October, when remedies for Taylor-Haw will be decided.

Taylor-Haw claims he is owed £1m, based on the current value of the share options.

“I am delighted the employment tribunal found I was unfairly dismissed by Chargemaster,” Taylor-Haw said in a statement following the ruling.

“My next step is to pursue a claim in the High Court for my valuable share options.”

Ostracised from the company

Taylor-Haw, whose company Elektromotive was acquired by Chargemaster in 2017, had alleged that he had been set up to fail in the role as part of a “purported redundancy situation.”

The inventor told the tribunal on Thursday that he had been “ostracised” from the company, “humiliated” and “quite blatantly moved sideways.”

“I was more or less told not to attend the office,” Taylor-Haw said.

And while he wanted a title that included the words “business development”, he was instead given the director of partnerships role, he said.

“It was my Bernie Ecclestone moment — I was given a title and no-one knows what it means.”

He said that, if he had seemed “enthusiastic” about the role like Martell had claimed, it was because he “always looks on the bright side and grasps tasks with vigour.”

“I had been told to reinvent myself and to create a role for myself,” he said.