A worker at an explosives factory has been awarded almost £25,000 after being unfairly sacked over raunchy emails with a supplier who nicknamed her "sexy knickers". Aileen Paterson, who worked in procurement for Chemring Energetics, was dismissed in January after 35 years' service with the firm who are based in Ayrshire, Scotland. It came after bosses discovered inappropriate messages between her and the managing director of supplier MTEC. On one occasion when the supplier referred to her nickname, she replied: "Aye and I have them on!! Lol xx." He wrote back: "Not if I was there, hon!! xxx." Ms Paterson, of Ardrossan, then added: "You are awful but I like you!!! xxx."
There were also other emails where Ms Paterson made a sexual reference to "edible sheathing" and she often referred to him as Honey or Hon and signed off with kisses.
Bosses quizzed her about her relationship with the MTEC director but the married worker insisted the emails were just "banter".
Ms Paterson was sacked by the firm when the emails were uncovered but eventually took her case to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and breach of contract.
Employment judge Lucy Wiseman awarded her a total of £24,526, saying: "I concluded that no other reasonable employer having regard to the extent of the misconduct in this case, and having satisfied itself there was no issue of preferential treatment, and no issue of a loss of trust and confidence in the employee, would have dismissed the claimant."
The tribunal heard that bosses were carrying out another investigation, unrelated to Ms Paterson, when they discovered the emails and suspended her.
She was invited to a disciplinary meeting with the firm's planning manager Alison Ranachan on November 30 last year.
The purchasing worker was shown the emails between her and the director, named only as Mr Arnott, and asked "whether she was a personal relationship with him and whether she considered the language used to be professional?".
A written judgment on the case states: "The claimant told Ms Ranachan that she had known Mr Arnott for many years and regarded him as a dear friend.
She was not in a personal relationship with Mr Arnott. The claimant explained the content of the emails as banter and that she had a bubbly personality."
Ms Paterson was also accused of encouraging Mr Arnott to put his account on hold with the firm due to delayed payments and making derogatory remarks about a colleague to him.
She also admitted receiving a bottle of wine from him at Christmas and a bottle of champagne when she and her husband first got engaged.
Following a disciplinary investigation, bosses wrote to Ms Paterson in January and dismissed her for gross misconduct. They found that the "email exchanges were unprofessional, contained sexual undertones and breached the respondent's code of business principles".
Judge Wiseman accepted this, but rejected the claims that she encouraged MTEC to freeze their account with the firm and that she had made inappropriate remarks about a colleague.
Ms Paterson, who is now working as a cleaner, ultimately won her case but had her payout reduced by 25 per cent as her conduct contributed to her treatment by Chemring.