Sex aid firm marketing boss from Portsmouth was sacked after website change lost company sales, tribunal hears

A senior executive at an organic sex aid company called Yes Yes was sacked from his £57,000-a-year job after he changed the firm's website address from .org to .com without his boss's permission, a tribunal heard.

Tuesday, 5th February 2019, 2:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 8:46 pm
Ciaran Arstall at the Yes Yes Yes tribunal at Southampton Magistrates' Court Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency

Yes Yes, which specialises in making natural lubricants, was founded by two women who chose to use '.org' in its domain name because they found it 'amusing'.

It is understood its closeness to 'orgasm' was humorous both to staff and customers when the now-popular company - whose slogan is 'Passionate About Sexual Health, Serious About Sexual Pleasure' - began.

But head of sales and marketing Ciaran Arstall believed that changing it to 'yesyesyes.com' address would boost sales.

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Yes Yes Company founders Susi Lennox, right, and Sarah Brooks Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency

And he ignored protests from one of the founders and changed it before she gave permission, the tribunal heard, resulting in a significant loss of sales for the business, which had grown to be making £1.2m a year in 2014.

Mr Arstall, 45, was sacked from his £57,500 role in June 2017 after three years at the company, despite having been given a pay rise for 'extraordinary performance' just six months earlier.

Susi Lennox, 73, and Sarah Brooks, 58, the founders and directors of the company, claim they sacked Mr Arstall after he forced through a website domain change, against Ms Brooks' wishes.

Mrs Lennox and Ms Brooks sold their houses in 2003 to create the company, which aimed to create a natural sexual lubricant for women - launching the brand in 2006.

Its products are found in pharmacies and high street health stores across the country and are also available in 92 countries worldwide.

In a witness statement, Mr Arstall, from Portsmouth, claimed Ms Brooks had 'animosity' towards him and had planned to remove him from his role.

An email by Ms Brooks to another colleague said she "could not understand why we had not got rid of Ciaran 18 months ago".

She even referred to an acronym 'LAC', which means 'Life after Ciaran'.

He revealed he had suggested changing the website domain from 'yesyesyes.org' to '.com' to generate more online custom for the brand, which he 'worked tirelessly for'.

However Ms Brooks was against the idea, and told the tribunal the company - based in Petersfield, Hants, could lose 60 per cent of their business 'overnight'.

She said: "I started to notice problems with the claimant in October 2014 when he set up a meeting with a design company he knew, to look at artwork changes.

‘The company was not planning a rebrand but the claimant had briefed the design company on that basis.

‘I do not know exactly when the claimant questioned our .org URL and suggest we use .com instead, but it would have been between July and November 2014.

‘I explained that .com was not available when we launched the business and the humour around the .org amused us and many customers.

‘Further, and more importantly, our website URL had at this point garnered eight years of Google positive reputation associated with it.

‘We set up the website eight years earlier, and over that time we worked to make sure our website was at the top of search engines.

‘If we changed the website domain it would be like starting at zero again, I was strongly against the idea.

‘The claimant never accepted my decision, continuously challenged me about it, raised it at board meeting repeatedly, worked to convince Mrs Lennox I was wrong and tried to put .com on the artwork when he thought I would not notice.’

While the director, from Petersfield, was away from work having a cruciate ligament operation in August 2015, Mr Arstall persuaded the company's other director, Mrs Lennox, to change the domain without consulting her.

As predicted, the company lost multiple customers, and Ms Brooks was 'very upset' the decision had been made without consulting her.

A meeting was arranged between the directors and Mr Arstall in March 2017 to discuss his role, but he claims it was not a disciplinary meeting and that was never discussed in the conversation.

He was relieved of his role three months later in June 2017, despite no disciplinaries during his three years in the position, where he earned.

Mr Arstall claimed Ms Brooks was a 'bully' who 'intimidated her staff' and used 'strong language' frequently during debate.

He has brought the company to the tribunal claiming he was unfairly dismissed and there was a breach of his contract.

The tribunal continues.