November's top five employment law cases

People Management runs down the most read tribunals of the last month – from car park confrontations to phone faux pas

1. Tribunal awards NHS manager £1m in racial discrimination case

A former NHS IT manager was awarded £1m after a tribunal found he was unfairly dismissed. The manager was dismissed for gross misconduct after he was accused of assault following a dispute with a van driver in the car park, however the tribunal found the investigation into the incident was fundamentally flawed due to unconscious racial bias.

2. Disabled worker was subjected to foul-mouthed rant after being pocket-dialled by manager, tribunal hears

BT was ordered to pay a disabled employee more than £8,000 compensation for harassment after the employee’s manager accidentally ‘pocket-dialled’ him and unknowingly broadcast a foul-mouthed rant. Paul Tribe overheard his manager describing him to a third party as a “bullshitter” whose job would have been better performed by an “able-bodied” team member. The judge said the call amounted to a “violation of [Tribe’s] dignity”.

3. HR leader wins landmark unequal pay case

Co-operative Group’s former HR chief has won a landmark case for equal pay and unfair dismissal after a poor performance review led to her termination. Manchester Employment Tribunal ruled that Samantha Walker was directly discriminated against on the grounds of her gender in relation to her performance rating by the firm’s appraisal process, but dismissed claims she was fired for raising concerns she was being paid less than her male peers.

4. Teacher who ‘shoved’ student was not unfairly dismissed, despite withheld witness statements

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld an earlier ruling that a teacher who allegedly shoved a student was not unfairly dismissed. Mr J Hargreaves argued the initial tribunal erred in its decision because of the significance of witness statements withheld from the disciplinary board and himself. However, the EAT ruled it was appropriate not to inform Hargreaves a number of witnesses had said they had not seen the incident, adding that the fact they had not seen the confrontation did not mean it had not happened.

5. Employee was not harassed or discriminated against by office ‘teasing’, EAT rules

A London sales representative who was dismissed over his performance claimed he suffered insults from colleagues because of his weight and his ethnic background. While the EAT admitted that in different contexts and circumstances the comments made about him could have constituted discrimination or harassment, it noted such claims are “highly fact-sensitive and context-specific” and that he had not suffered harassment, victimisation or discrimination when he was dismissed.