The former boss of business group giant the CBI says his “reputation has been totally destroyed” after being fired over complaints about his behaviour.
Tony Danker acknowledged he had made some staff feel “very uncomfortable”, adding: “I apologise for that.”
But he said his name had been wrongly associated with separate claims, including rape, that allegedly occurred at the CBI before he joined.
The CBI did not comment but has said he was dismissed on strong legal ground.
In his first interview since being fired on 11 April, Mr Danker said his termination letter had cited four reasons for dismissal:
- Organising a secret and private karaoke party for 15 people after a Christmas work event
- Viewing the Instagram accounts of CBI staff
- Sending non-work related messages to staff on work messaging platforms
- Inviting junior staff to breakfasts, lunches or one-on-one meetings
Mr Danker accepted that some staff may have found his approach at work uncomfortable and apologised for that – but he did not believe his immediate sacking was warranted.
Instead, he claimed he had been made “the fall guy” for a wider crisis engulfing the CBI.
“I have never used sexually suggestive language with people at the CBI,” he said. “You know, there was an incident somebody raised a complaint about unwanted contact, which was verbal contact.
“There was never any physical contact. I’ve never had any physical contact. I’ve never used any sexual language. I’ve never propositioned anybody,” Mr Danker said.
Mr Danker said he was considering legal action but didn’t want to sue.
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, says Alison Loveday, an employment lawyer at Lockett Loveday McMahon Solicitors.
“It must have either violated someone’s dignity, whether it was intended or not, or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, whether it was intended or not.”
The lobby group is facing a number of claims from 2019 including drug use as well as serious sexual assault which is being investigated by City of London police.
Mr Danker said his reputation has been “totally trashed” because these claims emerged a matter of weeks after the CBI disclosed that it was looking into separate allegations of misconduct against him.
The CBI has said Mr Danker’s dismissal followed an independent investigation into specific complaints of workplace misconduct against him.
Mr Danker admits that he did look at the Instagram profiles and stories of “a very small number of CBI staff, men and women”.
“The CBI already knew that some people thought that that was intrusive, and I get that,” he said.
“I get that people felt that it was wrong, that I was looking at their admittedly completely public Instagram stories”, he added.
Mr Danker who joined the CBI in November 2020 also acknowledged he had messaged around 200 individual staff members, but said it was part of building “rapport” during lockdown as well as with colleagues who continue to work from home.
He said these messages said things such as ”hi, how are you? How was your weekend? Show me pictures of your dogs or your babies”.
But he believed some people had thought the messages inappropriate, and they had not realised Mr Danker had “been doing this to everyone to try and build rapport.”
Finally, he said that the invitations to junior staff for lunches and breakfasts were part of a CBI mentoring scheme called the Shadowing Programme. Mr Danker said both male and female employees were invited by Mr Danker to discuss their careers.
In Mr Danker’s recollection, the “private” karaoke party came after people suggested it after a CBI Christmas party in 2021.
Mr Danker said he booked a room for 15 people which was “the largest I could get”.
“I emailed everybody saying ‘here’s the address’, no cameras allowed’, because everybody said to me ‘I don’t want to be filmed singing karaoke’,” he said.
Asked why he has chosen to speak publicly, Mr Danker said he’d rather not talk to the media.
But he said: “It is just not OK to throw somebody under the bus and ask them to be the fall guy when their entire reputation is destroyed.”
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