Case of mistaken identity?: Gorski and Bell brought unfair dismissal complaints against their employer. Their tribunal applications (IT1s) referred to their employer as ‘The Mortgage Bureau (Yorkshire) (a firm)’, and in accompanying documentation as ‘The Mortgage Bureau (a firm)’.
In response to the claims, the employer filed an IT3 clearly identifying itself not as a firm, but as a limited company, The Mortgage Bureau (Yorkshire) Ltd. Having failed to comply with a directions order, the employer’s IT3 was struck out, and the tribunal went on to uphold the workers’ claims of unfair dismissal. The tribunal awarded compensation to be paid by the individual partners in the respondent firm.
The respondents appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on the grounds that the workers had wrongly identified their employer in their IT1s. The respondents argued that the workers’ claims had been brought against them personally, and should have been brought against the limited company. Accordingly, no award for compensation could or should have been made against them as individuals.
The appeal was allowed. The EAT was not satisfied that the tribunal’s conclusion was a safe one, either because it involved a misdirection, or else because it did not explain the reasons on the basis of which the tribunal arrived at its decision. The case was remitted to the tribunal solely to reconsider the identity of the employer. If the tribunal were to conclude that the employer was a limited company, then the award would have to be made against the company. But if they agreed with the previous tribunal’s decision, the previous award would stand.