The GMB union constructively dismissed an employee by refusing to allow her grievance to be heard by anyone other than her line manager, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled.
In June 2003, the claimant – Ms Brown – lodged a grievance against her line manager Tom Brennan, a regional secretary of the GMB, flowing largely from the breakdown of their working relationship.
Brown said she did not want him to deal with the grievance himself, as she was suffering from stress as a result of several "confrontational" meetings, and wanted somebody else to hear the grievance.
She claimed that by insisting on her having to pursue her grievance directly with Brennan, the union as her employer had undermined trust and confidence in the employment relationship.
The original tribunal ruled that the union ought to have been willing to display some flexibility in the operation of its procedures.
A refusal by the GMB's acting general secretary at that time, Paul Kenny, to get involved in resolving the dispute was the "final straw" for Brown, the tribunal said, and she eventually resigned in May 2005.
The EAT upheld the original decision that the GMB's refusal to depart from the grievance procedure amounted to a breach of trust and confidence.
Brown was initially awarded compensation of £40,883, but this was reduced by £4,664 on appeal.