Employment Appeals Tribunal

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Employee victimised for raising multiple grievances

Woodhouse v West North West Homes Leeds Limited  has recently been heard in the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and the judgment has been delivered. 

Employers beware! Many of you will no doubt have sympathy with the Respondent in this case.

By way of background:

Over a period of four years Mr Woodhouse lodged ten internal grievances with his employer alleging race discrimination.

In addition he also brought seven employment tribunal claims against his employer. 

Almost all were found to be empty allegations without any proper evidential basis or any grounds for his suspicion.

The employer dismissed Mr Woodhouse eventually due to an alleged breakdown in trust and confidence. The employer confirmed to Mr Woodhouse that his numerous allegations of discrimination had been taken seriously but were ultimately not upheld following thorough investigations. The employer also did not believe there could be a sustainable working relationship going forward.

On the face of it this is not an unreasonable argument.

Mr Woodhouse claimed again however in the employment tribunal and as part of his claim pleaded victimisation on the grounds that he was treated less favourably than others would have been treated by reason that he made repeated complaints of race discrimination.

The claim was heard by the tribunal in the first instance and the tribunal found that it was not victimisation because the employer would similarly have dismissed any employee who had brought a similar number of meritless grievances and claims. In other words the employer did not treat Mr Woodhouse less favourably because of his race. 

However the EAT held that the tribunal’s decision was wrong. The EAT instead held that the grievances and the tribunal claims were “protected acts” and that Mr Woodhouse was dismissed because he made those protected acts. There was in the EATs opinion no suggestion of bad faith, which would have prevented the grievances amounting to protected acts.

This case highlights that an employer should not dismiss any employee who makes a series of misguided grievances pertaining to any type of discrimination.

What advice can we give to employers with the above case in mind?

  1. Manage grievances properly and in a timely manner
  2. Train managers in equal opportunities and update training regularly
  3. Implement and review regularly your equal opportunities policy.
  4. Implement a bullying and harassment policy
  5. Take legal advice as soon as you are aware that there could be a potential claim
  6. Consider taking out insurance against claims.

If all else fails consider a compromise (soon to be known settlement agreement)!

If you would like to discuss this, our insurance backed advice scheme or any other employment related matter please contact the employment team.
 

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