Singe Benefits: £4785 for "causing" first degree burns.....

A warning for all employers that however appalling an employee's behaviour might be you can still end up losing an Employment Tribunal claim. In Gemma Notman v Hair Flair Salon a customer was getting highlights in her hair. She was left with a wound of about two to three inches wide on her head and hair began falling out. She went to casualty and then a burns unit, where specialists said there was a good chance her hair would not grow back.

The hairdresser was suspended following complaints by the customer. The Salon sent out a letter inviting her to a meeting to discuss gross misconduct. It did not specify what the alleged misconduct was or indicate that she was at risk of dismissal. At the hearing matters were raised which had not been referred to before. The Tribunal found that the real reason for dismissal was not that they believed the hairdresser had burnt the customer's head but because they wanted to show the customer that they had dealt with her complaint.

1) always set out that dismissal may be an outcome of a discplinary meeting where that is the case

2) always send out details of allegations of gross misconduct - eg when, where, what , who
3) don't get someone to put acid on your head

Office Parties - who needs them?

Presumably the answer is employment lawyers given two case reported this week:

Firstly The Times reports Chi v The Investors Club Limited :
He drunkenly groped her at NYT nightclub in the West End of London in December that year. She said: “He made unwanted advances towards me, including caressing me on a couch, even though I made it clear I wanted to go home.“He started to caress my back and asked me to stay a little longer. I said ‘no’, but he kept insisting and continued to caress my back for the duration that I was sitting there. He offered to pay for a taxi for my colleague and said he would take me home personally at the end of the night. Again I declined his offer.”

The Tribunal disabused the boss of his belief that an email saying " Someone's got the hots for you" was "lighthearted banter". The financial award has yet to be made but will be high.

The second case Richard Fleming v Jabil Circuits Ltd. Fleming was asked to organise the annual bash for his department, paid for by the company. 10 staff were expected to attend. He was given a cash advance of £150, booked a restaurant and advised everyone of the time and place. However only 2 turned up including him. Rather than wonder why everyone disliked them, they decided to have their meal, drink two or three bottles of wine which had already been opened, then go on a bar crawl part of which was not with co-workers. The next day the organiser of this very social evening submitted an expenses claim for £144 to one manager and eventually told another manager that only one other person had turned up. He was sacked for spending almost £300 on himself, another coworker and friends. The Tribunal awarded him £13,000 for unfair dismissal - having reduced the award as he was partly to blame for the dismissal in not telling his boss immediately that only 2 people turned up. Sometimes it's safer for mangers to shake their heads and laugh rather than get gung-ho.

"Go up the road and find another job" = £4000 unfair dismissal award

In Stephen Welsh v Raymond Barnes the Glasgow Tribunal has award £4000 to an asthmatic worker who arrived late at work after a chest infection. His boss told him to go up the road and find another job. He responded by telling his boss where he could shove the job. The employer thought this was a resignation - in reality it was a direct dismissal by the boss. The award was reduced by the Tribunal as they felt the worker did have a poor attendance record and would have been dismsised fairly eventually for poor performance.

Integration or Separation of Church and State?

Last year the House of Lords ruled that ministers of religion could bring claims for discrimination in the employment tribunal in the case of Percy v Church of Scotland. The case was referred back to an Employment Tribunal to decide if Mrs Percy had a case (she had been disrobed after allegedly disrobing with a married man who was not her husband). The Church of Scotland has reportedly settled the claim for £10,000.

The House of Lords left open the issue of whether a minister of religion could sue for unfair dismissal. The definition of employee in discrimination law is wider than in unfair dismissal law. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has today ruled in Sylvester Stewart v the New Testament Church of God that the earlier decision of the Watford Tribunal that ministers of religion can have unfair dismissal rights was correct. The full judgement is here.

Headline Fiasco

"26 October 2006
Chauffeur's blast at lord
By Craig Mcdonald

A CHAUFFEUR told yesterday how he battled through a blizzard to pick up his boss - only to be criticised for not being properly dressed."

I have quoted the text of the Daily Record's original webstory as I am sure they will correct the surreal typo sooner or later. Unless of course impromptu taxidermy was part of his job description...

The Apprentice

In James LLoyd v Federal-Mogul Sintered Products Ltd the Birmingham Tribunal has awarded £24,000 to an apprentice who was dismissed three years into a four year apprenticeship. £20,000 was for breach of the apprenticeship contract and £4000 was for unfair dismissal. This is a reminder that although apprentices are covered by the unfair dismissal regime they cannot be easily dismissed without following the proper processes set out in the apprenticeship contract.

You've not started so you're finished...

In Andrew Logue v Argyl & Bute Council the Glasgow Tribunal has found that a blind social worker who never actually started work because his bosses kept putting off his start date was discriminated against on grounds of his disability. The cause of the delay was the Council's need to check that the support worker needed to enable Mr Logue to work, was suitable. There is public funding for adjustments made to help disabled people work and I expect that this support worker post was so funded. At the meeting where his support worker was to be interviewed there was some form of row about hours and Mr Logue "stormed out". The Council then assumed he no longer wanted the job and wrote to him regretting this. On the face of the report its hard to see what the discrimination was- however it is a useful reminder that discrimination law kicks in some time before employment commences and that even dismissal law does not require an employee to actually start employment. Above all though it is a warning about "interpreting" employee behaviour as meaning anything beneficial to an employer. The safest course is to check if they have in fact resigned.

No veils please

An eagerly awaited employment tribunal decision which was heard in July before Jack Straw's comments kicked off the public debate on the veil . According to the BBC report the claims for religious or race discrimination and harassment for suspending the veiled teacher have been dismissed. However £1100 has been awarded to her for victiminsation, £1000 for injury to feelings and £100 as the 10% uplift for failing to follow the statutory grievance procedure properly. It is not clear what the victimisation claim was for - in law it would have to be for subjecting her to a detriment or treating her less favourably because she raised complaints of discrimination or harassment. It does not appear that the suspension was the act of victimisation.

This may not be the end of the matter as the Council have said she can return if she agrees to remove the veil and she has said she has no intention of doing so. She also intends to appeal against the decision.

Rejecting part-time work request = sex discrimination

In Kate Haslam v All Hallows RC High School the Manchester Tribunal found that Mrs Haslam returned to work after maternity leave in January last year, she had been allowed to work two days a week on a short-term basis for six months but when she asked the school's head if the part-time arrangement could be made permanent she was refused, as the head believed the quality of teaching would suffer if pupils were dealing with more than one member of staff. The head believed there was an insufficient source of part-time teachers to become involved in a job-share arrangement. The Tribunal said this was indirect sex discrimination and the School should have investigated the possibility of a job share. It appears that there was a settlement as there is no report yet of any award.
The comment section in the Manchester Evening News is quite amusing:
"What an absolute disgrace! Here we have another public sector tribunal being won by the claimant because the panel was probably being to 'politically correct'. "
Well it has got nothing to do with political correctness - it's about making sure women are not penalised for raising their kids.

Sacking for covert tape recording fair

In Pendleton v Pennine Housing 2000 the Leeds Tribunal has held that the dismissal of a caretaking coordinator for secretly recording conversations with his co-workers was fair. When the co-workers discovered the recordings they made it clear they would not work with him again. This was sufficient to bring the dismissal within the band of reasonable responses a reasonable employer could take and thus the dismissal was fair. His defence was that he had a poor memory and illegible handwriting. Which begged the question - why didn't he tell people he was recording the meetings?

£17,560 for pregnancy dismissal/harssment

In Emma Nicholson v Network Global Solutions a boss hired a former Miss Great Britain finalist because her looks would make her a good salesperson. She was bullied into posing topless during a sales training day - with the photograph later pinned up on a noticeboard. She told them she was pregnant and had her company car removed and her work possessions dumped in her front garden. She was later sacked. After the first hearing last March her boss bought a racehorse and named it Emma Told Lies. This did not impress the Tribunal. The company were lucky to get away with an award of £17,560. The final line of the Sunday Mirror report may suggest why....

Veil of Tears continued....

The teaching assistant suspended for refusing to remove the full veil whilst teaching in class is now reported as saying that she was prepared to remove her veil in class provided that there the were no men in her class. For an employer to respect this wish would open them to a claim of unlawful sex discrimination by male teachers prevented from doing their job. No employer can tolerate being put into this position.

And on the Seventh Day he rested....

In Estorinho v Jokic a cafe knowingly hired a catholic chef who did not want to work on Sunday because of the Old Testament prohibition on working on the sabbath. After several years of this arrangement the cafe decided they wanted him to work on Sunday. The chef raised a grievance based on religious discrimination and in retaliation the cafe sacked him. The tribunal found that the dismissal was because the chef complained he was being discriminated against on grounds of religion and was unfair. The report doesn't indicate the compensation sum.
There was no doubt in this case that the religious beliefs were genuine. Future cases may though turn on whether an employee genuinely has a religious objection to sabbath working.

Veil of Tears....

In the political satire "Bulworth" the press are shown asking inanely "Is there a controversy here": the last week has felt much the same with the coverage (which is indeed the appropriate word) of the veil row. In this climate it's no suprise that employment law has been roped in. The Guardian reports the suspension of a teaching assitant for refusal to remove her veil when teaching. The report says the matter is going to a Tribunal already. I assume that the teacher is challenging the suspension as being in breach of the 2003 rules on religious discrimination and possibly under the sex discrimination act. If the claim is one of direct discrimination the school will have to show that it would suspend a non-moslem for wearing attire that covered the face. That should be an easy task as its hard to believe a school would tolerate a teacher wearing a full balaclava in the class room. The trickier task is to defend a claim of indirect discrimination. A rule that a teacher's face must be visible to the pupils is on the face of it neutral but in reality is aimed at preventing the use of the full veil. To defend the claim the school will need to show that the requirement is a proportionate method of achieving a legitimate aim. Expect to hear a lot from anthropoligists and educational psychologists as this moves through the system. As a School Governor myself I know where my sympathies lie.


This headline should be branded on to the HR department of Gloucestershire police. The case of Matt Powell v Chief Constable for Gloucestershire establishes no new principle. It stated a law that has been in place for 30 years. The police wanted to increase it's number of ethnic minority employees and at the next recruitment drive allowed all ethnic minority applications through to shortlisting but weeded out 2/3 of the white applications by random selection. This was so obviously racial discrimination its hard to believe - the Bristol Tribunal awarded £2500 as compensation for injury to feelings.

Sex pest payout

In Siddika v Guardian Care Home the Birmingham Tribunal awarded £7000 against the company whose boss allegedly sent her text messages that were overly familiar; asked for sex; made dirty phone calls. The sum of £7000 includes loss of earnings and injury to feelings and seems low. The Tribunal may have been awarding less because they didn't believe everything the claimant told them.

Boss too drunk to be punished

The current law is that if an employer fails to follow basic dismissal procedure any award for compensation is increased by at least 10% and can be increased by 50%. A tribunal can in exceptional cases refuse to increase the award. The Glasgow Employment Tribunal has given such an example in Foley v Galbraith. The employee was a Personal Assistant sacked without any warning or meetings. His boss employed him personally to do his washing, ironing, shopping and to pay his bills. . However his boss couldn't recall anything about the allegations of theft that he said caused dismissal as he was an alcoholic with severe physical disability. For this reason the Tribunal felt it unfair to punish the employer further. The P.A. got loss of earnings for 13 months in a total award of just under £14,000.

How not to deal with depression

In Adamczyk v East Sussex County Council the claimant was off ill for depression from Summer 03 to Spring 04. When she tried to come back in a phased return to work she was told that her post was no longer necessary. It does sometimes happen that employers only realise that they are overstaffed when someone is off sick or on maternity leave. In this case the Tribunal decided that the real reason was that they didn't want the aggro of dealing with a depressive employee. The give away was the fact that the School were advertising to recruit for almost the same post as the Claimant. This is a big warning against using the dodge of a "redundancy" to get round the Disability Discrimination Act.

£60,000 for unfairly dismissed 57 year old

The Industrial Tribunal in Belfast has awarded the maximum compensation for a 57 year old IT manager sacked to make way for another colleague. McDonald v Auto Indemnity (UK) Ltd is a useful reminder that Tribunals take it as read that older employees find it harder to find alternative work and that loss of earnings awards can be made for several years pay.

Sacked for eating 6 grapes

The Daily Mirror reports the astonishing dismissal by Waitrose of a man with learning disability for eating six grapes left loose by a customer in a trolley. This isn't a Tribunal case yet but seems to me to be a clear cut case of management following procedure without engaging their brains.

Holiday invite costs boss £33,000

The Exeter Tribunal has awarded £33,697 in Bing v Chard Town Council and Prior against the Council's ex Lord Mayor for sexual harassment. The Council had settled Ms Bing's claim against them for £25,000. A reminder that employees can sue both the harasser and the employer. The award reflected the rather the harasser's attempts to develop a relationship with an employee by inviting her to lunch, then to Andorra for a holiday. Ms Bing went off sick in response and raised a grievance which led to the Mayor being de-chained by the Council. The now ex- Mayor made things much worse by issuing a press release giving details of the allegations and her home phone number, and implied she was not really sick.

"I'm fed up with you - you're fired"

In Smith v MacDonald Transport the Tribunal awarded £8500 to an employee who was sacked on the spot for basically standing up for himself. The interesting thing to note is that his actual lost wages were about £2000. The final award was £8500 because there was a 50% uplift for failure to call a formal dismissal hearing; 4 weeks pay (capped at £290 a week) because he hadn't been given a proper written statement of employment terms; 2 weeks pay because he hadn't been given a reason for his dismissal and 10.5 weeks pay because he was 60 and had served 7 years with the company.

Kentucky Fried Racism

The Sheffield Star reports an award of £2500 to a Manager at KFC who having complained about not being invited to a meeting was told "Maybe its because I'm being racist to a black woman". She complained and was not interviewed and appears to have been suspended without pay while the investigation took place. Another case for the "How not to" file.

Duty to make reasonable adjustments

In Routledge v TRW Systems a worker became sick with sleep-deprivation based depression after working alternate day/night shifts. He was advised by his GP to cease workihg nights so that he could get his body back into a normal pattern. The Tribunal decided his bosses had discriminated against him by faiiling to make a reasonable adjustment ie by not offering him a full time day job. No figures in the report on the award so watch this space.

Don't shoot the messenger...

In Chris Martin (not that one) v Parkam Food Group a Tribunal has found that a gay man who complained about graffiti in the work toilets which was abusive to him was entitled to resign and claim dismissal under the 2003 Equality Regulations because of the employers failure to deal with his complaints about it properly. 3 months after starting work he found a crude sexual drawing in the men’s toilets, in black marker pen with his name next to it. He complained; no action was taken; he wrote asking why not. The words “Chris Arse Martin” were then added to the graffiti. The company placed a warning notice in the toilets relating to graffiti but not to homophobic behaviour. He was suspended but the report does not say why. He resigned claiming constructive dismissal.
As an aside the Dewsbury Today reports this as a landmark case. Whenever you see this sloppy cliche ignore it - it usually means some pressure group is at work feeding text to lazy journalists.

An unreasonable boss is not a bullying boss

In Jenny Dodds v WRVS the Carlisle Tribunal has rejected a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. The employee resigned claiming her boss was bullying her. The Tribunal disagreed saying that at worst he was unreasonable and this didn't amount to a breach of her employment contract. To one person behaviour can appear to be firm management, to another it can feel like harassment.

"Copper seeks Twink"

The Nottingham Employment Tribunal has rejected a claim of sexual orientation discrimination in Ben Stokes v Chief Constable of Nottingham. The facts of the case as reported by the Pink News do make it quite suprising that the employee lost and he will be lodging an appeal. Hopefully the Pink News will correct their reference to a "gay sating agency"..... a slightly more accurate description of Gaydar than " gay dating agency".

Harsh but Fair

A good news day for employers today - first up is the case of Robert Surtees v Apache North Sea where a Tribunal dismissed a claim of unfair dismissal. The employee took a 2 hour break from his nightshift claiming he was unwell. He worked on an oil-rig and was mechanical technician. Even though he had been there 27 years and this was his first offence the Tribunal said that it was gross misconduct given the importance of his health and safety duties. Most imporantly they said that although they might not have made that decision themselves the employer was entitled to make that decision. This is the "band of reasonable responses" test beloved of employment lawyers acting for employers. A lenient employer might have just given him a final written warning given his length of service. The counter-argument would be that someone with long service should know better than to skive off work for 2 hours.

£800,000 for harassment

The case of Helen Green v Deutsche Bank was not an Employment Tribunal claim - but a High Court case for psychiatric injury caused by harassment by work colleagues. It is important though as Tribunal's can award damages for psychiatric injury in discrimination cases (where there is no limit on compensation.) This was not a sex discrimination case as the main perpetrators of the harassment were all women.... She was awarded £35,000 for pain and suffering, £25,000 for her disadvantage in the labour market, £128,000 for lost earnings and £640,000 for future loss of earnings and pension.

Sense of Humour Bypass - Lawyers guilty of racism

In Halima Aziz v Crown Prosecution Service the Court of Appeal has restored a tribunal decision (taken after a 9 day hearing) that the CPS racially discriminated against one of its own solicitors. The facts are quite ridiculous. Ms Aziz, a Muslim, walked into court and a security officer said to her that she was a security risk. Rather than taking offence at this astonishing comment she treated it as a joke and replied by saying that she was a friend of Osama Bin Laden's. She was suspended for making offensive comments. The original tribunal decided that the CPS would not have suspended a white solicitor for making the same comment. For rather more facts Halifax Today's report is quite good.

Pay Off Unlawful

Trinity Mirror's North Wales operation has published an article that might send shivers down the spine on lawyers or trade unionists representing public sector workers. The upshot is that the District Auditor has ruled that a pay off to a senior employee in advance of a Tribunal hearing was unlawful because the people about whom the Tribunal related were the ones taking the decision whether to spend taxpayers money on settling the claims brought about by their actions. It is not clear from the report if the £40+k settlement is being recovered from the ex-employee. If it is then some compromise agreements might not be as final as everyone thinks.

Less qualified man gets job - bosses get £21k bill

In Susan Rowley v Scottish Borders Council a female teacher seeking promotion was awarded £21,000 for unlawful sex discrimination when she was turned down for a promotion in favour of a less-qualified man. The tribunal found that the school had diluted the person spec to favour the winning man. He did not have the experience or qualifications directly related to the post. Foolishly other candidates for the post had been told that Susan Rowley's qualifications and experience were of no use to her. So if you are going to be stupid, keep quiet about it..... Of the £21,000 awarded £5000 was for injury to feelings. Unless you read the Daily Record where she was only awarded £16,000 of which £5000 was for injury to feelings. The award was high because the losing teacher quit the profession as she was so appalled by the way she had been treated.

£5700 for meringue farrago

The Scotsman reports the quite delightful case of Tracey Gray v Fisher & Donaldson Bakery. The employee was a shop assistant who had failed to ring through a Pavlova meringue on the till. Unfortunately it had been bought by two store detectives. Before she had a chance to correct her error the boss walked in and took her out the back to accuse her of theft. She was sacked. For this gross overreaction she was awarded £5700 for unfair dismissal. This is a reminder that just because someone has done something wrong does not mean it's so wrong that dismissal is justified.

HSE Shiftworkers- New Guidance

Not technically a Tribunal issue but worth reporting anyway - the Health and Safety Executive have published guidance on shiftworkers which might be of interest to some given 3.5 million people work shifts in the UK.

£3725 for gay discrimination

The Pink News and Personnel Today both report the case of Sean Williams v Woodhaven Residential Home. The details are sketchy but the employee got an award of £3725 after being sacked without any procedure and in a discriminatory way because he was gay. The Home claimed he was sacked for poor performance and that he had received a police caution for not paying a taxi fare (not "fair" as one of the reports alarmingly spells it). This defence didn't really work as the employee was able to show that a straight employee had committed a similar offence and had not been subject to disciplinary processes. The killer evidence was from a former manager at the Home who said that the boss turned on the employee when she found out he was gay. The compensation figure seems low but this may reflect the low wages in the care sector and his ability to find another job.

Claim 4 years late - still OK to sue

The Fair Employment Tribunal is Belfast has handed down a decision in the Waterways Ireland case allowing claims of race and religious discrimination to proceed even though the alleged discrimination took place 4 years ago. This is a timely reminder that even though Tribunal claims normally have to be presented within 3 months the Tribunal can extend the time limit if it thinks it is "just and equitable" to do so.

Sacked for going AWOL = Unfair Dismissal

Yet another case where the employer would have been in the right if it had just taken its time. The Scotsman reports the case of David Hunter v Laidlaw Butchers. The employee booked a cruise before getting permission to go on holiday. Permission wasn't granted. He went on holiday anyway and was sacked on his return. The employee won automatically because the employer failed to follow the basic statutory disciplinary procedure. In such a case the Tribunal must increase the award by at least 10%. The report doesn't deal with this but does tell us that the employee's compensation was reduced by 75% because he contributed to the dismissal by going on holiday without permission. He can count himself lucky that the award wasn't reduced by 100%. He got £2000 in the end - if his employers had invited him to a meeting before sacking him he would have got nothing.

Sacked for Knife Threat - £4000 awarded!

Another salutary tale from Scotland. In Kathleen Telford v Castlehead Nursing Home the Claimant is reported to have threatened to to "bleed" a co-worker with a knife. She was sacked for gross misconduct. On the face of it that should be a fair dismissal. However the employer suspended her for a "serious allegation" without specifying what the allegation was. She attended the hearing without knowing exactly what the accusation against her was. This was a breach of the statutory disciplinary procedure and so automatically unfair. She was awarded just over £4000 compensation. This was after the Tribunal had reduced her award by 15% for contributing to her dismissal - which certainly appears to be on the low side. The lesson for employers is make sure you spell out clearly what the allegation is when you invite someone to a disciplinary meeting.

Beware "Landmark" Rulings

Personnel Today report what they consider to be an alarming Tribunal decision for recruitment agencies - they claim that it could lead to full employment rights for temps. From the skimpy details in the report it might be a case of the Press Release being more strident than the actual decision. From what can be gleaned the Temp was claiming holiday pay. Statutory holiday pay is generally accepted as being payable to temps already as they are "workers" under the relevant act. Unfair dismissal rights only apply to "employees" which is a much narrower category than "worker" and depends on issues such as control. I'll try to get a copy of the actual decision to see if the case does live up to its billing.

Tribunal Stats out : huge rise in claims

The 2005/06 Annual Report has just been published. The key findings are:

How many claims
Total claims went up to 115,000 from 86,000 the year before (but are at the same level as 2003/04). Of these claims 12,000 were rejected by the Tribunal without the need for the employer to put in a defence, on technical grounds. About 4500 of these claims were resubmitted and let through. There were only 340 religious discrimination claims and 321 sexual orientation claims.

Unfair Dismissal
22% of claims end up in a hearing. Of those decided by Tribunal the Claimant won 41%. The median award was £4228. For the statistically challenged this means that half of all claimants got more than this, and half got less. Only 62 claimants won more than £50,000.

Sex Discrimination
21% of claims end up at Tribunal and astonishingly there was an 81% success rate for employees. This is an aberration in the figures - last year it was 29% - the cause appears to be a series of victories in class actions covering several hundreds of women. The median award was £5546 and only 4 claimants got over fifty grand.

Race Discrimination
21% of race claims go all the way but of those claimants taking it to the wire only 14% won. The median award was £6640 and only 5 awards were made over £50,000.

Disability Discrimination
16% of DDA claims get to a final hearing where the employee won a quarter of the cases. £9021 was the halfway point in awards. 9 claimants won over £50,000.

This is very useful information for all concerned with the Tribunal system to manage expectations. It may even help to provide a corrective to the media-inspired belief that employers are being fleeced by greedy employees, soft Tribunals and rapacious lawyers. The plain fact is that most employees lose and those that win don't get to live the life of Riley on the proceeds.

Costs Ordered (always of interest to the lawyers...)
580 orders were made by the Tribunal for one party to pay the others costs - a quarter against the claimants, 75% against the respondents.

Keeping all these claims on the move are 129 Tribunal Chairs (down 1 on last year) and 744 staff (down from 763). The system costs £69.7 million to run (a little less than the year before). Trebles all round for handling more cases with less staff and less money.

"I'm voting for Kilroy-Silk" = Racial Harassment

Yes your PC has gone mad. The Independent's report on Schembri v HSBC plc will no doubt give the Blimps apoplexy. A Maltese woman has won part of her race claim against the bank because a fellow worker said (not to her but) to another employee in the room that she was voting for Kilroy-Silk because he wanted to get rid of foreigners and she was against immigration. So the upshot is freedom to manifest political opinions in the workplace has to come second (and rightly so in my opinion) to the duty to allow employees to work without racial harassment. I wonder though whether the freedom to manifest religious beliefs will come second to the duty to allow employees to work without harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation. If the workplace is to be a neutral space where possibly offensive political opinions are to be left at the front door, is the same to be true for possibly offensive religious views?

As a postscript the Brussells Journal of all things reports that the punishment was £750 - at the lowest end of awards for injury to feelings.

Sacked for going blind!

A horrendous case from the Daily Mirror - Hayley Tudor v Spen Corner Vets Surgery. The first horror was that MsTudor had a stroke after a bungee jump, which then led to her becoming blind. Her employer didn't comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments and gave her her P45 instead. The Manchester Tribunal awarded £20,000 which is a high award in the context of a gross annual salary of £9000. The case was supported by the Disability Rights Commission who printed this press release.

Sacked by phone - £10,000 awarded

The North West Evening Mail reports the Carlisle Tribunal case of Whitehead v James Fisher Ltd. Depressingly it seems some employers are still unaware that you have to invite employees to a dismissal meeting before sacking them. Firing them over the phone never goes down well with Tribunal members.....

Sacked for refusing to work = Unfair Dismissal

A cautionary tale from the Daily Record - Richard Cassie v William Convery & Sons Ltd. The Claimant (a single parent) refused to work late when there was no one to look after his kids. His employers treated this as a resignation. In fact it was automatically unfair dismissal as the Claimant was exercising the right to take time off to deal with family emergencies. He would have won even if he had had just one day's service with the Company. The cost to the employer £3810 in cash and lots more in bad publicity.

£30,000 for reference fiasco

Some cases just want to make you slap people for being so stupid. Seg Naicker v Stirling Council & Edinburgh City Council is such a case. The Claimant used to work for Stirling Council and left them having presented Tribunal race claims which were settled under a compromise agreement. This agreement contained an agreed reference. The employee applied to join Edinburgh Council. From the press report it appears an officer at Stirling called her opposite number at Edinburgh and warned them that the Claimant was a difficult person. Edinburgh turned him down for the job. Result: £20k from Stirling, £10k from Edinburgh. This is a major wake up call for HR departments on the management of agreed references. Just because the organisation has officially made its peace with the employee it is still at risk if another employee decides to gab off to someone seeking a reference. Also note that here that both former and prospective employers were liable for race victimisation.

£18,860 award for pregnancy discrimination

The Glasgow Employment Tribunal in Karen Smith v Premier Systems (Scotland) Ltd has awarded almost £19,000 as compensation to an employee sacked ONE WEEK after telling her bosses she was pregnant. She was told that her sales performance was poor (or that her phone manner wasn't forceful enough according to The Scotsman) and that she had to go. A textbook case in how not to manage pregnancy in the workplace. £8000 was awarded for injury to feelings.

£93,000 + award for police sex discrimination

It's all go in Watford. The Herts Advertiser reports Michelle Butler v Herts Constabulary under the rather surreal headline of Police Merger Delay. Ms Butler found out she was pregnant 5 weeks into her employment and after her maternity leave was required to work on 24 hour shifts and denied a transfer to a job that did not require night work. The key issue appears to be how quickly the transfer request was denied and the lack of a proper investigation into that request. The Daily Mail have done a sympathetic article on the story but it is worth reading some of the reader comments on it which are very much of the "how dare she get pregnant" variety. Over 30 years since the sex discrimination law came into force some people still don't get it.

£41,300 award in the Watford Tribunal

The Watford Observer reports Mohammed Ben-Khaled v West Herts NHS Trust where the claimant won £41,300 damages for unlawful sex and religious discrimination and unfair dismissal. Astonishingly the Trust were not represented. A costly lesson in how to manage litigation....

How Tribunal Users Really feel...

The DTI's excellent research unit has published "The experience of claimants in race discrimination cases". At 213 pages it is not the most convenient document to read so I've distilled some of the more interesting findings:

"Most claimants did not inform their employer they would be applying for a Tribunal." This is worrying given the 2004 Rules make employees complain internally first (or "grieve" as some lawyers are rather horrendously calling it).

"At the outset, claimants were confident they could win their case, being convinced that they were in the right." Well that's not an enormous shock really is it!

"Representatives were often involved in cases that were withdrawn or settled prior to a main Employment Tribunal hearing." This may well be because some realism was introduced into the proceedings.

"Although claimants had not been motivated by money they rarely felt that the sums they were awarded were sufficient compensation for what they had been through." As one of my bosses once said " its not the principle - it's the money"....

"On the whole, claimants did not feel adequately prepared for the Tribunal hearing, and did not know what to expect."

"Claimants felt that the Chair, and whether or not they were sympathetic towards the claimant was central to the way they experienced the hearing."

"Claimants felt that the balance of power rested with the respondents as they had more experienced legal teams, more financial resources and a greater number of witnesses."

"Claimants who were unsuccessful at Tribunal attributed this to factors including bias in the panel, lack of witnesses, insufficient evidence, having to represent themselves, or the inexperience or incompetence of their representatives." Rather than say the fact that they had no legal claim or gave hopelessly confused evidence.

"Successful claimants were not always satisfied with their case outcome. This was either because they felt they had not been awarded enough money or because of a perceived lack of formal cautions or punishments directed at employer-respondents."

"Most claimants reported that the case had a negative impact, they had found it very stressful, and many said that it had worsened their physical health and emotional well-being."

"Claimants who represented themselves often experienced some of the worst effects on their health during their cases."

"Claimants felt that the process of taking an Employment Tribunal case was not ‘user friendly’ enough, that it should be less formal and less reliant on legal terms and knowledge. They felt that securing good representation and providing evidence were very important." As indeed they are in all cases.

Employers Liable for ALL forms of Harassment

The House of Lords has today ruled unanimously in Majrowski v Guy's & St. Thomas' NHS Trust that an employer can be liable under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for harassment committed by an employee in the course of employment. Such claims can be brought in the County Court or High Court but not in the Employment Tribunal. The time for bringing such a claim is 6 years. This gives employees who have missed the 3 month deadline for bringing Employment Tribunal claims under the discrimination legislation if they have been harassed at work by another employee. It also gives employees who have been the victims of harassment which does not fall under the current discrimination headings the chance to sue their employers for the harassment.

ACAS Concilliators at the Tribunal?

I've recently appeared before the Northern Ireland Industrial Tribunal and noticed that a Labour Relations Agency (the Ulster equivalent of ACAS) Concilliator was in attendance to help parties settle cases. The Concilliator was only there for the cases where there were Case management conferences and pre-hearing reviews. So the first question for GB Tribunal users (and any ACAS officers out there) is "Should ACAS send concilliators along to Tribunals to help settle claims at the case management/PHR stage?"