London Zoo has recently faced an employment tribunal claim from a meerkat handler who was dismissed following an incident at the zoo's Christmas party. The claimant, Ms Westlake, was involved in a fight with a colleague, Ms Sanders at the Christmas party. There were various factual disputes as to what happened. Ms Westlake was accused of hitting Ms

Saunders in the face with a glass. Ms Westlake argued that before this Ms Saunders had  hit her and dangled her over a high balcony. The fight was apparently in relation to a squabble over a llama keeper. 

Ms Westlake was dismissed for gross misconduct; however, Ms Saunders was only given a final written warning. Ms Westlake argued that the decision to dismiss her was unfair due to this inconsistency. The Employment Tribunal agreed that both women were culpable and Ms Westlake's claim succeeded. As is common is gross misconduct cases; however, the Employment Tribunal felt that Ms Westlake had contributed to her dismissal by her inappropriate behaviour and reduced her compensation to nil as a result. Although London Zoo escaped without having to pay compensation in this case, the case is a useful reminder for employers of the importance of consistency in disciplinary decisions.