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Ok. Too early to talk about Christmas? As the story below illustrates, disputes between employees and employers can result in a very public airing of the dirty washing, yet an increasing number of employers are finding a new way of resolving such disputes through workplace mediation.

In what has been dubbed a ‘menagerie a trois’, two female keepers at London Zoo fought ‘tooth and claw’ over the llama keeper at the Christmas shindig.

Caroline Westlake, the meerkat keeper, was dismissed by her employer after hitting the tiger and monkey keeper, Kate Sanderslove rival in the face with a glass that sliced open her cheek.

Ms Westlake is suing on the basis that Ms Sanders, was only given a final written warning and banned from Zoo events for two years whereas she was dismissed.

An employment tribunal was told that after Mr Davies split from Ms Sanders he asked Ms Westlake out but she had turned him down and Mr Davies began seeing another woman, who works in the zoo’s gift shop, before asking Ms Westlake out again.

Things came to a head at the Zoo’s Christmas party when a fracas erupted resulting in Ms Sanders being injured.

Ms Westlake is also claiming disability discrimination because the zoo had failed to address her attention deficit disorder and dyspraxia, which is a condition that affects coordination.

The tribunal’s judgment has been reserved, but there appears to have been a failure by the zoo to manage the work relationships issue which can often cause friction. Mediation in these circumstances can be a better way of dealing with disputes like this before they escalate out of all proportion.

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