The claimant, Mr Taylor, succeeded in his claim against his former employer for unlawful victimisation under the Race Relations Act 1976.
The employment tribunal (ET) decided not to award him compensation for injury to feelings, relying on earlier case law which held that an award in respect of injury to feelings had to result from knowledge that it was an act of discrimination which brought about a dismissal.
The ET found the claimant had been dismissed partly on perceived performance grounds and partly because he had brought a grievance and made an allegation of racial discrimination when doing so. The ET found the claimant had attributed any injured feelings, not to his knowledge of any act of victimisation, but to the employer’s failure to comply with the statutory grievance and disciplinary procedures.
The claimant’s appeal was allowed. The case law that the ET referred to was specifically concerned with an award for injury to feelings and had no application to a claim for injury to health (the claimant was diagnosed with depression, an injury to health). The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) noted there was a conceptual distinction between the two types of injury, but the rules of recoverable compensation in relation to each should not be different in the circumstances, particularly where there is a degree of overlap in the actual suffering/injury for which any employee may claim. There was no reason in principle for making an exception in the case of awards for injury to feelings in discrimination cases.
The EAT therefore held that, in principle, an injury to health such as depression was governed by the usual principles applying to personal injury compensation, in other words that a claimant recovers compensation for the damage caused to him by a wrongful act. The claimant should therefore be able to recover compensation for his depression, irrespective of what he knew or did not know about his former employer’s motivation in dismissing him.
An employee complaining of discrimination could recover compensation for injury to feelings as long as the injury was attributable to the discriminatory conduct – it is not necessary that the employee should know of, or even suspect, the employer’s discriminatory motivation.
Different rules should not govern the recoverability of compensation for injury to feelings and injury to health (personal injury).