Victimisation: Unfounded Grievances and Dismissal
Can an employer fairly dismiss an employee who, over a sustained period, persistently raises unsubstantiated grievances and tribunal claims? Only in exceptional cases, said the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Woodhouse v West North West Homes Leeds Ltd.
The Equality Act 2010 provides that an employer must not take detrimental action against an employee because they have raised a discrimination claim or made an allegation of discriminatory treatment. Even false allegations will be protected, as long as they are made in good faith. In this case, Mr Woodhouse had raised 10 grievances and 9 claims against his employer alleging race discrimination and harassment, most of which were unfounded. His employer eventually dismissed him because of this behaviour.
Whilst most of his allegations were “objectively false”, there was no suggestion that they were made in bad faith. He was therefore protected and his subsequent dismissal was unfair as it was connected to his past grievances and a desire on the part of his employer to avoid dealing with any future grievances.
This case confirms how difficult it will be for an employer to take action against an employee who persists in raising irrational or false complaints of discrimination. It is only in those rare cases where bad faith is present that a dismissal for multiple grievances may be fair.