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December's top five employment law cases

3 Jan 2019 By PM Editorial

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

1. Sacked ‘ethical vegan’ claims discrimination in landmark case

A policy worker has claimed he was fired from his role after he disclosed that his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), was investing pension funds into firms involved in animal testing, and said he was discriminated against because he is vegan.

Jordi Casamitjana (pictured above), who describes himself as an 'ethical vegan', claimed nothing was done when he brought his findings to the attention of managers, and began to tell other employees, for which he was fired. LACS said Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct – not because of his veganism, and that it “emphatically rejects this claim”. An employment tribunal will meet in March 2019 to determine whether veganism is a “philosophical belief” protected by law.

2. Insurance broker told to repay bonus after argument over leaving date

The Court of Appeal has ruled that James Craven, a broker with insurance firm JLT Speciality, has to repay a bonus advance of £500,000 after a dispute about the day his employment contract officially ended. Craven was paid the bonus on the condition that he did not leave his role on or before 31 December 2016, but subsequently handed in his notice on a date that would have ended his contract before then.

3. Bar manager choked by colleague at Christmas party wins tribunal

Cardiff magistrates court found that a bar manager who was choked by a colleague at a staff Christmas party and left with partial facial paralysis, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder was constructively unfairly dismissed. 24-year-old Molly Phillips was gripped around the neck and left unconscious, believing she had suffered a stroke until she returned to work to check CCTV footage. The court found the company's directors’ response to the CCTV evidence was unsatisfactory, and that Phillips's subsequent resignation amounted to an unfair dismissal.

4. Depressed employee dismissed for ‘incapacity’ is granted appeal

A security manager entitled to long-term disability benefits due to depression will be allowed to appeal a tribunal that found his dismissal on the grounds of “medical incapacity” was not in breach of his contract. Mr H Awan was originally dismissed by security contractor ICTS UK for incapacity. However, the EAT found the firm may have been in breach of TUPE regulations as Awan might have been protected from dismissal on the grounds of illness due to benefits included in a contract he had carried over from a previous employer when his job was transferred to ICTS.

5. Government whistleblower’s disclosures were not protected by Human Rights Act

A decision that a civil servant could continue his whistleblowing claim against a government office, in circumstances where he would otherwise be committing a criminal offence by bringing it, has been branded “unconstitutional” by the EAT.

Mr G Pytel, an economic analyst at the Office for Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), worked on the implementation of a new smart meter scheme measuring the energy consumption of households. He raised concerns he had about the project with his managers and presented his claim to an employment tribunal (ET) on 26 July 2016, which found that his rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial (sections 10 and six of the Human Rights Act) won out over a clause in the Utilities Act which would have meant giving evidence at a tribunal was a criminal offence. However, the EAT subsequently ruled that the ET took "too narrow a view".

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