An employment tribunal has struck out a BBC reporter’s claim after finding that she discussed her case with a newspaper journalist during an adjournment when giving her evidence. Stephen Simpson rounds up recent employment decisions published during the first few weeks of the new online database of first-instance tribunal judgments.
Chidzoy v British Broadcasting Corporation
The employment tribunal held that BBC journalist Sally Chidzoy’s discussion with a newspaper journalist during a break in her evidence while still under oath was “unreasonable conduct” that justified her claim being struck out.
Claimant’s conduct while giving evidence: tribunal’s view
“Firm, clear and unequivocal instructions were given to the claimant at each adjournment not to discuss her evidence or any aspect of the case with anyone during the adjournments.
“The claimant was not unrepresented. There were two members of the solicitors’ practice acting on her behalf present throughout the hearing and during the adjournments. They fully understood (or should have done) the importance of a witness not engaging in discussion whilst they are giving evidence…
“We have considered carefully whether this is a matter which we can overlook but we cannot. Unanimously we consider that a fair trial is no longer possible.”
The reporter was near the end of giving her evidence in support of her claim when the BBC’s representatives alleged that she had spoken about her case with an Eastern Daily Press journalist during a break.
It is prohibited for a witness to discuss details of the case with an outside party during breaks between cross-examination. This to prevent the risk of a third party corrupting the evidence of a witness.
The BBC’s legal team argued that the claimant’s actions were unreasonable and made a fair trial impossible.
They argued that the tribunal gave clear warnings to the claimant at each of the six adjournments in the proceedings while she was giving evidence that she should not discuss the case with anyone until her evidence was complete.
Warnings were given during the proceedings, in the presence of the claimant’s legal representatives and any journalists present.
Chidzoy argued that she was approached by a journalist she knew, and that they exchanged pleasantries about the journalist’s work for the Eastern Daily Press.
The employment tribunal found that the claimant did in fact engage in discussion about the case and her evidence with the journalist.
The tribunal concluded that this constituted unreasonable conduct, and that a fair trial was no longer possible because it had lost all trust in the claimant. It ruled out restarting the case with a different panel because the claimant had almost completed her evidence.
Beginning again could lead to disputes over any changes in evidence given to the first and second tribunal.
The BBC reporter’s claim was struck out.
Other tribunal decisions available online
Jones and others v Birds Eye Ltd and another
On 23 February, an employment tribunal held that claimants who were engaged on open-ended contracts and worked exclusively for Birds Eye were not temporary agency workers for the purposes of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.
Sarsembaye v KKMR Group Ltd and another
On 22 February, an employment tribunal awarded £45,006 for race discrimination to an Asian Kazak who was harassed in the workplace. The claimant was also awarded £18,529 for unlawful deductions from wages.
Resztak-Dobrowolski v Northern Foods Grocery Group Ltd t/a Fox’s Biscuits
On 17 February, an employment tribunal held that an employer followed the correct process for dismissal and re-engagement after a failure to agree a variation of contract.
EF v ST
On 10 February, an employment tribunal awarded additional compensation against a respondent for an unreasonable failure to comply with a tribunal recommendation.
Day v Alloga UK Ltd
On 9 February, an employment tribunal held that a supervisor who was disciplined after allegedly telling a Polish worker to “go back to your own country” on the first day back at work after the Brexit vote was not constructively dismissed.