The next case is a reminder that, in the absence of bad faith, an employer cannot dismiss an employee who makes a complaint of discrimination, even if the complaint is untrue. This is because the Equality Act protects an employee from being subjected to a detriment because s/he has carried out what is referred to as a 'protected act'.
A protected act is any of the following:
- bringing proceedings under the Act
- giving evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;
- doing anything which is related to the provisions of the Act;
- making an allegation that another person has done something in breach of the Act.
- However, none of these acts is protected if the evidence or information is given, or the allegation is made in bad faith.
In the case in question, the Claimant, a black man, was dismissed following an altercation with his manager who disputed the Claimant’s claim that he had not been able come into work because of the snow.
The dismissal letter gave 2 reasons for dismissal; namely, that the Claimant had acted in a manner that was aggressive, violent and threatening towards the manager and, secondly, that the Claimant had ‘made very serious accusations of racism against both [the manager] and [the manager’s deputy].'
The tribunal (with whom the EAT agreed) did not find either party's version of events reliable but decided that the Claimant had proved facts from which it could conclude that his dismissal was because of the allegation of race discrimination. The tribunal rejected the employer’s case that the reason for dismissal had nothing to do with any protected act. On the contrary, it found that retaliation for the Claimant making the allegation was a significant reason for the dismissal. It was also the employer’s case that the Claimant had made the allegation knowing it to be false or not believing it to be true, but the tribunal did not accept that this was the case.
This ruling is an important reminder that, in the absence of bad faith, an employer cannot dismiss an employee who makes an allegation of discrimination, even if the allegation is misguided. An allegation of discrimination will only lose protection against dismissal if the allegation is made in bad faith
If you would like advice about how the issues in this note apply to your situation, please contact Tony Brown on 01225 740097 or by e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Warning – this bulletin is for information only and does not claim to be comprehensive or to provide legal or other advice. You should take legal advice before taking or refraining to take any action. No liability is accepted for loss that may arise from placing reliance on this bulletin.