Tribunal Watch: Teacher’s dismissal for showing 18-rated film to pupils

The BBFC rates the 1978 classic Halloween as an 18 for its atmosphere of "strong threat" and graphic depictions of killings
Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.

Tribunal Watch returns with a round-up of recent case law reported in the news. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld a decision that a teacher’s dismissal for showing the 18-rated film Halloween to pupils amounted to discrimination arising from disability. Stephen Simpson reports on employment decisions you may have missed over the past month.

Dismissal for showing 18-rated film to pupils was disability discrimination
In City of York Council v Grosset, the EAT accepted that the dismissal of a teacher for showing an 18-rated film to a class of vulnerable 15- and 16-year-olds amounted to unfavourable treatment arising from his disability and was not justified.

Discrimination arising from disability: tribunal’s view

“Having regard to the medical evidence… the ET found that the claimant had shown the film when suffering from an impaired mental state such that errors of judgement might be anticipated.

“Specifically, it was more likely than not that the claimant had made the error of judgement in selecting Halloween as a result of the stress he was under; it was not an error he would otherwise have made and, in very large part, that stress arose from his disability…

“Given the seriousness of the error of judgement, dismissal might well be a proportionate response but the facts of this case… meant it was not a proportionate response when the disadvantage to the claimant was put into the balance.”

Mr Grosset was a teacher who suffers from cystic fibrosis. After a change in his school’s performance standards, he informed the headteacher that his workload had become unreasonable.

Mr Grosset’s workload did not decrease and his health deteriorated. His doctor signed him off work with stress.

The headteacher discovered that shortly before Mr Grosset went on sick leave he had shown the 18-rated film Halloween to a class of vulnerable 15- and 16-year-olds.

The school took disciplinary action. The disciplinary panel did not accept Mr Grosset’s explanation that his decision to show the film had been a momentary error of judgment caused by stress and exacerbated by his cystic fibrosis. He was dismissed for gross misconduct.

Mr Grosset’s claims included a claim for discrimination arising from disability under the Equality Act 2010.

The tribunal concluded that Mr Grosset had shown the film when suffering from an impaired mental state because of stress that arose from his disability and that his dismissal amounted to discrimination arising from his disability.

The tribunal held that in light of all the medical evidence, the decision to dismiss was not justified.

On appeal, the EAT concluded that the employment tribunal had been entitled to find that:

  • the showing of the film was as a “consequence” of Mr Grosset’s impaired mental state due to his disability; and
  • the medical evidence showed that dismissal was not a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims of protecting children and ensuring disciplinary standards are maintained.

The EAT dismissed the appeal.

Read more details of the case and its implications for employers…


Other tribunal decisions in the headlines

Gran fired by track bosses over breast cancer
A gran who was fired by dog track bosses because she had breast cancer is set for a £100,000 compensation payout, reports the Sun.

Woman sacked after refusing to bow to boss
A financial manager who lost her job after she refused to bow to her boss is set to win thousands of pounds in compensation, according to the Sun.

IFA pays out £28,000 to dismissed manager
A former commercial manager at the Irish Football Association (IFA) has won almost £30,000 in compensation at an employment tribunal, reports the BBC.

Tribunal rules York Hospital sacking was fair
A surgeon who broke patient confidentiality in his campaign against a hospital consultant has failed in his court claim that York Hospital dismissed him for whistleblowing, the York Press says.

Couple who sacked housekeeper ordered to pay him £8,000
A housekeeper who drove his millionaire bosses’ Porsche and had his boyfriend to stay at their home was unfairly sacked because his employers did not follow the correct procedures, according to the Telegraph.

Former health secretary’s firm faces unfair dismissal case
Directors of a crashed company have been given the go-ahead to pursue a case for unfair dismissal against a business controlled by the former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, reports the Guardian.

Thomas Cook issues apology after pilot wins tribunal
A Thomas Cook Airlines captain has accepted an apology from the company after being sanctioned for refusing to fly due to claims that he was suffering from fatigue, highlights Travel Weekly.

Woman wins £75,000 over Network Rail equal pay
A woman has been awarded £75,000 after successfully representing herself in an equal pay dispute against Network Rail, the BBC reports.

Beauty therapist wins £18,000 after unfair dismissal
A beauty therapist who was dismissed from her job at a Carlisle health club because childcare needs stopped her working weekends has won an employment tribunal payout of £18,000, says the News & Star.

Gay canon Jeremy Pemberton loses tribunal appeal
A gay clergyman who lost an employment tribunal against the church has had his appeal dismissed, according to the BBC.

Bullying tribunal rules for trainee
An employment tribunal has upheld a complaint against a district council after being told a trainee solicitor was bullied and intimidated, the Darlington and Stockton Times reports.

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