February’s top five employment law cases

4 Mar 2019 By PM Editorial

People Management takes a look at the most-read tribunals of last month – from the oldest successful age discrimination claimant to a woman dubbed a 'baby farmer' by colleagues

1. Nursery that sacked teacher for living with boyfriend wins appeal against religious discrimination

An Orthodox Jewish nursery in London that sacked a teacher after it learned she was living with her boyfriend won an appeal overturning a ruling of religious discrimination. 

A tribunal had previously found that the dismissal of Zelda De Groen by Gan Menachem Hendon nursery was discriminatory because it was unfair of the nursery to expect everyone of its religion to follow orthodox practice. But the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) overturned this, ruling that while an employer was not allowed to act unfavourably to an employee based on that individual’s religious belief, it was permitted to do so based on its own belief so long as it acted consistently.

The judgement was precedented by last year’s high-profile case in which the Supreme Court ruled a bakery was allowed to refuse putting a pro-gay marriage slogan on a cake because it was not discriminating against an individual.

2. NHS secretary becomes oldest person to win age discrimination case

An 88-year-old hospital secretary became the oldest person in the UK to win an age discrimination case after she was sacked when colleagues complained about her age and “frailty”. A Reading tribunal heard Eileen Jolly was “humiliated” and “degraded” after the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust dismissed her for allegedly failing to upload details of cancer patients into a new electronic database. 

Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto added there was a suspicion Jolly was a “scapegoat” and cited evidence she had received inadequate training, which could have led to the mistake.

3. Mechanic who had heart attack after altercation at work was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules

A mechanic who suffered a heart attack after an altercation at work was unfairly dismissed following a dispute about his return to work. 

Gordon Flemming was dismissed for gross misconduct after failing to attend meetings with an operational health specialist following his sick leave after the heart attack. However, the employment tribunal ruled that while Flemming was “difficult to manage” at times and “on occasion simply would not cooperate [with] genuine efforts to resolve his employment difficulties”, he was unfairly dismissed because his employer failed to take a “holistic view” of the workplace difficulties he experienced.

4. Employee called a ‘baby farmer’ was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules

An employee who was referred to by a colleague as a “baby farmer” after she returned from maternity leave was unfairly dismissed.

A Leicester employment tribunal found that Miss L Hayman had faced direct sex discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics on specific occasions in her role at logistics firm Pall-Ex. The tribunal also heard how Hayman was shouted at and faced “bullying behaviour” from her line manager, with one incident leaving the claimant in tears in the bathroom.

However, the tribunal dismissed claims Hayman had been treated less favourably because she worked part-time, and a number of other claims of sex discrimination were also dismissed because they were made out of time.

5. Asda shop workers win landmark equal pay battle

A group of Asda employees won a significant victory in a long-running equal pay case against their employer, with the ruling moving them one step closer to a full hearing of a landmark case.

The Court of Appeal has upheld an EAT ruling that the supermarket’s shop workers, who are mostly female, can compare their role with higher paid warehouse staff, who are mostly male, in a pay discrimination case they have lodged. The decision would allow thousands of workers to bring pay discrimination cases against the supermarket, and could allow employees of other retailers to follow suit.

A spokesperson for Asda said the supermarket was “disappointed with the decision” but remained confident in its case.

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