Rogers & Norton News

Unfair to dismiss for ill-founded complaints

Friday, August 16, 2013

Woodhouse v North West Homes Leeds Ltd

Mr Woodhouse raised ten grievances and brought eight tribunal claims against his employer over a four-year period. They all alleged race discrimination and almost all were found to be without merit.

His employer eventually dismissed him, believing that he had lost trust and confidence in the company. A tribunal claim followed in which Mr Woodhouse alleged that he had been dismissed for doing ‘protected acts’. (Making a claim under, or alleging a breach of, the Equality Act can amount to a protected act. Dismissing someone because they have carried out a protected act amounts to victimisation.)

The tribunal found for the employer. There had been no victimisation. The employer hadn’t treated Mr Woodhouse less favourably because of his race; any other employee who had raised a similar number of ill-founded complaints would also have been dismissed. The dismissal had been for ‘some other substantial reason’ (trust and confidence) and not because of protected acts.

However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided otherwise. Even where an employee raises grievances which are not made out, they are protected from being victimised (as long as the grievances were raised in good faith). The question is whether or not the employee had been dismissed because he had complained of discrimination, which Mr Woodhouse had. But if the grievances had been made in bad faith then things would have been different; they wouldn’t have amounted to protected acts and there couldn’t be victimisation.

So where an employee raises a discrimination-based grievance (or series of grievances), don’t just focus on their validity. If the employee really does believe that they had been mistreated, and they don’t have an ulterior motive, then dismissing them – or taking any detrimental action against them – is likely to be victimisation.

Talk with us about dealing with employees who raise multiple complaints to avoid bigger headaches down the line.