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February’s top five employment law cases

3 Mar 2020 By PM Editorial

People Management runs down the most read tribunals of the last month

1. Manager who quit after ‘public dressing down’ in group email was constructively unfairly dismissed

A manager at a logistics company was constructively unfairly dismissed following a “public dressing down” in a group email from another senior manager, an employment tribunal (ET) ruled.

Fraser MacLean, who worked as a general manager for parcel logistics at Menzies Distribution, resigned without notice after he lost faith in a grievance process investigating the conduct of the company’s chief financial officer (CFO).

Paul McCourt, the firm’s CFO, emailed MacLean and 15 other staff members – including workers who MacLean managed – blaming him for the company’s poor financial performance in Scotland, which McCourt described as an “omnishambles” in the email. The tribunal ruled this email constituted a repudiatory breach of MacLean’s employment contract, and noted that a single incident of abuse was enough to find in favour of a claim of constructive unfair dismissal.

Menzies Distribution was ordered to pay more than £14,000 in compensation and lost earnings and benefits.

2. Company director not allowed to retract his ‘heat of the moment’ resignation was unfairly dismissed, tribunal finds

A managing director has won a claim of unfair dismissal against a company he founded after his fellow bosses accepted a resignation made in anger and terminated his employment hours after he stormed out of a meeting.

An ET heard Robert Rae, former managing director of Wellhead Electrical Supplies, told his fellow directors “I won’t be back” as he left a meeting about employees’ pay. Despite contacting the directors the day after the disagreement to clarify he was not resigning, he was told his resignation had already been accepted, and he was not to interfere with the business of the company any more, or speak to staff.

The ET ruled this was an unfair dismissal, as Rae offered “no real resignation despite what might have appeared at first sight”.

3. Disabled employee described as ‘lively’ by manager wins discrimination and harassment claims

A customer service adviser for HMRC has won claims for discrimination and harassment on the basis of disability after she was described as “lively” by her line manager.

A Manchester ET upheld a complaint of discrimination and harassment brought by Stephanie Pemberton, who has rheumatoid arthritis, over a comment from her line manager that she "can become lively when there is a flare up” in her condition. The ET noted that while the remark was “throwaway” and “not malicious or ill-intentioned”, it nonetheless had the effect of “violating Mrs Pemberton’s dignity or creating such an environment”.

HMRC was ordered to pay Pemberton £4,000 plus interest for injury to feelings. A number of other claims were dismissed.

4. Secretary who resigned after her boss said she would not hire someone who was black was unfairly dismissed, tribunal finds

A secretary was unfairly dismissed after her managing director told her she would not hire someone who was black during a phone conversation, an ET has ruled.

The tribunal found Mrs C A Hobbs, who worked for Avon Care Homes from November 2015 until her resignation on 8 April 2019, was unfairly dismissed after she quit without notice following her managing director admitting she would not be hiring a candidate because of the colour of their skin.

Judge Christa Christensen said the racially charged actions of Avon Care Homes’s managing director, Christina Bila, “utterly undermined” Hobbs’s ability to trust her employer, and ruled the serious nature of the unlawful recruitment practices Hobbs was being asked to administer meant she was not required to raise a grievance before resigning.

5. Lawyer denied job for being ‘expensive’ wins age discrimination case

A senior solicitor has won an age discrimination claim after being rejected for a job at a law firm because he was “expensive”, a tribunal has ruled.

A Manchester ET found Raymond Levy was discriminated against because of his age after he was denied a job at McHale Legal, despite being the only person interviewed for the role. It ruled that “expensive” was in fact “synonymous with his being an experienced and older solicitor”, and that the firm changed the job requirements to suit a more junior solicitor after it had deemed Levy unsuitable.

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