City worker 'sacked' for finding explicit photo of manager on computer
A City IT worker found a sexually explicit photograph of a senior manager on a work computer, an employment tribunal heard.
Claudio Pallone, 51, said he discovered the image on a laptop of the colleague, known only as AB, who was pictured naked, in front of a mirror.
He made the allegations at a hearing where he is taking a case against former employees Banco do Brasil.
He claims he lost his job as information security officer at the company’s office after exposing a series of security breaches which left the firm at risk of money laundering and fraud.
The day after he was told his contract was being ended, the married father-of-one sent a warning to colleagues at the banking giant not to misuse work equipment.
It followed the earlier discovery of the explicit image of his colleague. Mr Pallone said it was one of his tasks for the day to issue the email alert. It did not name the staff member involved.
However, the bank’s senior managers reacted angrily to the message, placed Mr Pallone on immediate gardening leave, and banned him from returning to the firm’s offices in the City of London.
MrPallone, who is claiming he was unfairly sacked under public interest disclosure - or “whistleblowing” - rules, said the incident revealed a culture of covering up failings at the firm.
In a statement to the Central London Employment Tribunal, he said: “One outstanding issue that I attended to that day related to the matter of some indecent images which had been found on one of the respondent’s laptops.
“In accordance with the respondent’s own policies and procedures and without citing any names or details, I simply sent out an email reminding all users of the respondent’s policy regarding computers and the prohibition of downloading and storing indecent imagery.”
He added: “If those indecent images had been found on the laptop of any other user employed by the respondent then the most severe disciplinary sanctions would have been imposed.”
He accused HR manager Joyce Bailey of taking part in “the deliberate concealment of the incident and evidence” particularly “those of its most senior personnel”.
He was put on ‘gardening leave’ and had his access to the firm’s networks immediately cut.
He said: “I found the whole episode distressing and humiliating; I was prohibited from accessing the respondent’s premises even to collect my own personal belongings or say farewell to the colleagues that I had worked with.”
He added: “I was treated like a criminal.”
The bank claims Mr Pallone first knew about the photos in December 2012 but only sent out the memo to “wreak revenge” against the manager in the photo who he blamed for his dismissal.
The email was sent to offices in Vienna, Portugal, Spain, Milan and Frankfurt and was forwarded to the company’s auditors.
But Mr Pallone, who is originally from Brazil, insisted he had mistakenly sent the email to people outside the London offices. He told the tribunal: “They are trying to imply that I did not do it in good faith..
“When I saw these pictures I was shocked that someone who should be setting an example to everyone at the bank was capable of having such obscene images on a work laptop. For a couple of weeks I was upset about that because I had to go into work with him.”
Mr Pallone started working at the London office of Banco do Brasil, one of the largest banks in South America, in May 2012 on an 11 month fixed term contract.
The £48,000 role a year involved overseeing the bank’s management of data and information security. Mr Pallone told the tribunal that after a few months, he saw “major systems errors” which breached FSA regulations.
He claims the bank’s new online security system Flexcube was riddled with “known and unknown bugs”.
From September last year until February he claims he reported these breaches of FSA regulations, but that his concerns fell on “deaf ears” and he was told to “stop making so much noise”.
He said his complaints came to a head at the beginning of 2013 at a meeting with deputy manager Ricardo Forni.
Mr Pallone added: “As my employment progressed it became increasingly apparent to me that the important failings I reported were not being addressed or rectified.”
On March 6 this year he was summoned to a meeting and told that his employment would end on April 26.
The bank denies the allegations and claims his contract ended because the firm was trying to cut costs and IT problems had subsided.
Paulo Guimares, the bank’s London branch general manager said in a statement: “It was the case that by the time Claudio’s contract came up for renewal the volume of IT problems had been reduced.”
He refuted allegations the company had flouted security regulations. He claimed it was “odd” that Mr Pallone had sent the email to so many people and so managers decided to put him on gardening leave. The hearing continues.