court hammer

For employers who find dealing with grievances a challenge and question the need to follow strict procedures in accordance with employment law, you are well advised to read the following recent employment law case – it certainly puts into context the need to treat each and every grievance on its own merits and deal with them accordingly.

The facts of this case are interesting and are as follows…

Mr Woodhouse is black. Over a period of four years, he lodged ten internal grievances alleging race discrimination. Separately, he brought seven employment tribunal claims against his employer. They were almost all found to be “empty allegations without any proper evidential basis or grounds for his suspicion”.

After having to deal with such frustrations and time consuming exercises, the employer eventually dismissed Mr Woodhouse on the basis of there being a breakdown in trust and confidence. Mr Woodhouse brought a claim of unfair dismissal and victimisation. The employment tribunal held this was not victimisation, because the employer would similarly have dismissed any employee (irrespective of race) who had brought a similar number of meritless grievances and claims.

However the tribunal decision was challenged by Mr Woodhouse and the Employment Appeal Tribunal determined that the decision made was indeed wrong, on the basis that grievances and tribunal claims are ‘protected acts’. Mr Woodhouse was dismissed because he made those protected acts. There was no suggestion of bad faith (which would have prevented the grievances amounting to protected acts). Since he was dismissed for making protected acts, his victimisation claim was successful!

It’s undoubtedly the right decision from a legal perspective, no matter how unfair it may appear to the employer. In the absence of the employer raising any issue that “bad faith” formed the basis of his grievances and tribunal claims, this case provides evidence that an employer cannot dismiss an employee who makes misguided complaints of any sort of, and in particular, discrimination.

If you have any queries relating to employees grievances then do consult with your HR Consultant who can guide you through the process you need to follow.