Case roundup

This
week’s case roundup.

Care
needed when conducting disciplinary proceedings
Whitbread v Hall, unreported, February 2001, Court of Appeal

Disciplinary
proceedings began against Hall following allegations of gross misconduct. At
the disciplinary hearing, Hall admitted the allegations and was then dismissed.
He brought a successful unfair dismissal claim.

Although
the tribunal held that the dismissal fell within the "band of reasonable
responses" Whitbread’s disciplinary process had been so flawed that it
rendered the dismissal unfair. The EAT agreed.

Whitbread
appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal. The issue was whether the
requirement of "reasonableness" pursuant to section 98 of the
Employment Rights Act 1996 was relevant only in relation to the disciplinary
sanction imposed or whether it was also relevant to the process leading to the
employer’s decision to dismiss. Notwithstanding Hall’s admission, Whitbread was
still obliged to act in a reasonable manner.

The
court held that the appropriate test in misconduct dismissals to determine
whether an employer had acted reasonably was that established in Burchell and
confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Foley and Madden last year. Did the
employer hold a reasonable suspicion that the employee was guilty of
misconduct, was that suspicion based on reasonable grounds and was a reasonable
investigation carried out?

Discrimination
resulted in psychiatric injury

Lawrence v JL Distribution, EOR Discrimination Digest 47, Employment Tribunal

Lawrence
was of Afro-Caribbean origin. From the time his employment commenced until his
dismissal seven weeks later he was subject to constant racist abuse from his
colleagues. After complaining to his manager about the treatment he was told
that he "didn’t fit in" and was dismissed. He was subsequently
diagnosed as suffering from depression.

He
brought a successful race discrimination claim. The tribunal held that Lawrence
had suffered direct discrimination and had been dismissed because the other
workers did not want to work with him. In addition, he had been victimised
because his dismissal arose directly as a result of his complaint to the
manager.

The
tribunal awarded compensation of £19,425 which included £10,000 for psychiatric
injury and injury to feelings. The tribunal was satisfied that Lawrence’s
depression constituted "moderate" psychiatric damage. His family life
had suffered and his lack of self-confidence affected his ability to look for
alternative employment.

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