Employment Law Horror Stories for Employers
As Halloween has just passed, we thought we’d present you with some of the most shocking employment law decisions made by the courts. We present to you, employment law horror stories for employers. So, grab a brew and get ready to read five of the most gasp-worthy stories out there.
The oldest person to win an age discrimination claim
NHS Secretary, Eileen Jolly, became the oldest person in the UK to win an age discrimination claim. At aged 89, her employer fired her claiming she was “stuck in her old ways” and that she had demonstrated catastrophic failure in performance.
To be clear, Eileen was sacked for being unable to use a modern computer – shocking! The Tribunal found there was a lack of training given to Eileen and awarded her £200,00.00 in compensation. Moral of the story: Training should be offered to all, whatever their age. Be kind, be patient and always provide training before second guessing a person’s capability.
£100million race discrimination claim
Electric car manufacturer Tesla lost their race discrimination suit when agency worker, Owen Diaz, filed a lawsuit after being told to “go back to Africa” and being subjected to racial slurs on a daily basis.
Whilst Diaz complained to HR on several occasions during his nine month stint with Tesla, which resulted in the dismissal of two employees, Diaz proceeded to file for punitive damages and emotional stress. Diaz has since been awarded a whopping £100 million pay-out.
Please note this is an American-horror story – literally! But the case still emphasises the importance of operating a working environment free from discrimination
Second largest disability discrimination award ever made in the UK
In January 2021, David Barrow, Head of Programme Management at Kellogg Brown and Root (UK) (KBR), was awarded £2,568.831.97, the second largest disability discrimination award ever made by the Employment Tribunal.
Barrow had been employed with KBR for 36 years prior to his dismissal. In 2017, Barrow was diagnosed with a form of post-viral lymphoma, a form of cancer. In December 2017 he was escorted off the premises by his line manager and KBR notified staff members that he’d been ‘let go’ due to poor performance, namely due to his treatment causing him to suffer episodes of mania and emotional instability.
Barrow’s solicitor informed KBR of his cancer diagnosis in January 2018. Shortly after, Barrow was invited to a meeting with KBR however, he was unable to attend this meeting, asking for a postponement, due to his cancer treatment. In May 2018, Barrow received a letter dismissing him with immediate effect, due to a “breakdown in trust and confidence”.
Barrow succeeded in the Employment Tribunal in his claims for disability discrimination, harassment, victimisation and failure to make reasonable adjustments, because even though KBR were unaware of his cancer diagnosis before January 2018, they did not adjust their perception during the second dismissal hearing.
There is a right and a wrong way to act in such situations. This case should stand as a cautionary tale for all employers, namely that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone who has a protected characteristic.
A non-disabled police officer, wins claim for direct disability discrimination
A non-disabled police officer, Ms Coffey, won her claim for direct disability discrimination after her application for a transfer to Norfolk Constabulary was rejected as it was believed that her hearing loss and tinnitus would deteriorate in future and would likely to impact on her ability to carry out her duties.
Despite Ms Coffey’s hearing loss and tinnitus not being considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, the perception by her employer that her conditions would mean that she was disabled and would therefore cause an issue for them, was found to be direct disability discrimination and, as such, she was awarded £26,616.05 in compensation.
Employers should avoid making decisions regarding an employee’s ability based on perception, rather they should obtain a medical professional’s advice and/or opinion.
TV presenter wins landmark case against the BBC for equal pay
Finally, in a landmark case for equal pay, TV presenter, Samira Ahmed, won a sex discrimination case against her employer, the BBC, after it was found that fellow TV presenter, Jeremy Vine, was being paid almost seven times more for presenting another BBC programme.
In 1970, UK law provided that men and women must be paid the same for equal work. Defending the claim, the BBC argued that the difference in pay was due to Vine’s ability to play a ‘cheeky’ role and was therefore not connected to Ahmed’s sex. This argument was later dismissed by the Tribunal.
Ahmed won her claim of gender discrimination in connection with equal pay. It was not revealed how much compensation she was awarded however, she had initially claimed over £700,000.00 in back pay.
Employers should ensure their pay structure is transparent and fair, regardless of the person’s sex.
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