Case Law round-up

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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

There are lots of interesting employment tribunal cases around which can provide us with really useful insight, so here we give you a rundown on some particularly thought-provoking ones. 

EAT finds that dismissing an employee for posting “joke” was a fair dismissal

The claimant found a “joke” on the internet and posted it on the company intranet. It was very quickly taken down by the respondent because it was racist. The claimant apologised and asked for more training because they said that they didn’t realise that it was racist.

After an investigation and disciplinary hearing, the claimant was dismissed for gross misconduct. They then brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET) for unfair dismissal.

The ET found that the dismissal was unfair. The claimant had understood the impact that the post had and there was no malice involved. Whilst the respondent had a zero-tolerance approach, the ET held that there were other options that could have been taken, rather than dismissal.

The claimant appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) who found that the ET had substituted their own view instead of reviewing the fairness of the employer’s decision. The respondent’s zero-tolerance policy was clear that such behaviour could result in dismissal for a first offence and given the contents of the post and where it was posted, it was reasonable to dismiss the claimant.

The EAT overturned the decision and held that it was a fair dismissal.

(Vaultex UK Ltd v Bialas)

Resignation because of comments made about grandchild

The claimant was granted kinship foster carer status of their grandchild. They were juggling a lot of personal pressures which impacted their timekeeping at work and required them to occasionally have time off. The claimant alleged that they were told, in an angry and threatening manner, by the respondent that they had to choose between being a carer or a full-time employee. Comments were also allegedly made which suggested that the claimant should give their grandchild “a good slap” and the claimant was asked where the child’s father was.

As a result, the claimant resigned and brought a claim of constructive unfair dismissal alleging that there had been a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

The ET found that the conduct did amount to a breach and the claimant resigned in response to it. The claimant was awarded £24,725.35.

(Lee-Shields v Exquisite Displays Limited)

Check out BrAInbox for instant answers to questions like:

Can I sack someone for what they posted on their own social media?

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What areas can reasonable adjustments cover for disabled employees?

EAT finds that refusal of adjustments was reasonable

Due to an undiagnosed cardiac impairment, the claimant began to suffer from unpredictable blackouts. The claimant, a Principal Lecturer, asked for someone to accompany them whilst teaching and to only be required to teach smaller groups. 

The respondent rejected these amendments because teaching larger groups was a significant part of their duties, and they had concerns that the blackouts posed a danger to the claimant and those around them.

The claimant brought claims of failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from a disability. At the ET all the claims were dismissed. The claimant appealed but the EAT agreed and found that it was reasonable for the ET to uphold the respondent’s position that the claimant could not conduct their duties safely. The EAT also found that the adjustments proposed by the claimant were not reasonable.

(Powell v University of Portsmouth)

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