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Hotel executive pretended to be offended by staff calling him a 'diva'

by Roseanna McGeorge (2020-09-28)

A high-flying hotel executive who described himself as a 'poster boy for gay employees' has been ordered to pay nearly half a million pounds after pretending to be offended when colleagues called him a 'diva'.

Chee Hwee Tan, who earned £160,000 a year as Senior Vice President at Global Procurement, regularly referred to himself as a 'princess' and a 'bitch' and told the chairman's PA he was a 'diva who always delivers', a tribunal heard.

But after he was made redundant, he launched a string of claims against Millennium & Copthorne Hotels and complained that he felt 'harassed and offended' by others using the word diva in relation to him.

Mr Tan, who was based at the luxurious Gloucester Millennium Hotel in the heart of Kensington, also revealed he had secretly recorded 'tens of thousands of hours' of conversations with colleagues.

However the employment tribunal dismissed all his claims and ordered Mr Tan to pay £432,001 in costs.

Chee Hwee Tan was based at the luxurious Gloucester Millennium Hotel in the heart of Kensington

Mr Tan had tried to claim he was not friends with Dr Catherine Wu, PA to multi-billionaire chairman Kwek Leng Beng, and he felt victimised by her use of the word 'diva' in conversation with him.

But the tribunal heard the pair were actually close friends and messaged and gossiped almost daily.

They speculated on which male film stars were gay, went to a Graham Norton show together and were generally 'close confidants'.

In one of their many WhatsApp conversations, Dr Wu told him 'You also do not be diva, ok' when urging him not to jump to conclusions about other colleagues.

He replied by saying, 'Totally agree.

If you adored this write-up and you would certainly like to receive more information pertaining to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors fund ( kindly go to the page. I am not diva', later that day adding 'This 'diva' still faster than most ha'.

The tribunal found Mr Tan had described himself as the 'poster boy for gay employees' at the hotel, in another message to Dr Wu he said 'the diva always delivers' and he happily referred to himself as a 'princess' and a 'bitch'.


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He also accused another colleague of 'throwing his diva-ness around' in the office.

When he was asked by the tribunal why he felt it was okay for him to call other colleagues a 'diva', he replied 'it depends on the context'.

Mr Tan told the tribunal: '[I] felt offended and harassed.'

The hearing was also told he made a number of rude comments about senior work colleagues, describing the business's head of Europe as 'useless if not evil' and the Chief Financial Officer as 'having no balls'.

In 2016 Mr Tan was warned he was at risk of redundancy and at Christmas he signed off sick from work.

When he returned he saw a consultant psychiatrist - but decided to 'covertly record' the meeting.

The tribunal found this was something that Mr Tan regularly did and it was revealed he had 'tens of hundreds of hours' of recordings of conversations with junior and senior colleagues.

He recorded chats he had with the chairman's driver as well as the psychiatrist and his other friends at the company.

Mr Tan had tried to claim he was not friends with Dr Catherine Wu, PA to multi-billionaire chairman Kwek Leng Beng, but the tribunal heard they were actually 'close confidants' and even went to a Graham Norton show together

At one stage, Dr Wu suggested to him that he secretly record the chairman, but Mr Tan disingenuously replied 'It's illegal may get caught'.

The tribunal said: 'From this we find two things: firstly, [he] was being deceitful towards Dr Wu implying that this was a new idea about which he had reservations, when he had already made hours of such recordings and secondly, that he was fully aware that this amounted to wrongdoing.

'The further irony was that the claimant was actually recording that very conversation with Dr Wu.

'We find that this showed duplicitous and underhand conduct...he was collecting evidence for the purposes of proceedings.'

As part of his 'scattergun tactic' of making numerous claims against the claims after he was made redundant in 2017, Mr Tan, who is of Chinese/Singaporean heritage, also brought a claim of discriminatory pay, despite having his salary increased from £138,000 to £160,000.

The tribunal report stated: '[Mr Tan] self-described as diva and princess in conversation with Dr Wu and a poster boy for gay employees at the [company].

'[Mr Tan] at no time objected or complained to Dr Wu or otherwise about such terminology and we have found that they were close friends and confidants..'

The tribunal concluded that Mr Tan's claims of unfair dismissal, age discrimination, race discrimination, discrimination because of sexual orientation, victimisation, harassment, whistleblowing detriment and unlawful deductions from wages all failed.

Employment Judge Tina Elliot said that even if his plan of making so many claims had succeeded, his secret recordings would have ultimately still led to his dismissal.

The report added: 'We find that he was using a scattergun approach making reference to every possible claim he could think of, to strengthen his position within the redundancy exercise.'

Copthorne Hotels has 125 hotels in 22 countries across Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

In 2019 the business was valued at £2.23billion.

A night in the Executive Suite at the four star Gloucester Hotel in Kensington costs at least £360 and the hotel is just yards from the Bombay Brassiere, one of London's finest Indian restaurants.