Employment Update RRA wrongful dismissal 0808

13 August 2008

Even though his employer accepted his word that a complaint against him was unfounded, an employee could still claim a ‘detriment’ under the RRA.

In Olasehinde v Panther Securities the EAT has had to consider allegations of race discrimination and wrongful dismissal in a case where there were faults on both sides.

The employee was employed as a caretaker at a block of flats.

One of the tenants made a complaint about his behaviour. His employer held a disciplinary meeting where the allegations were dismissed (mainly as having been exaggerated by his manager) but he was told not to discuss them directly with the tenant concerned.

However, he did so and, as a result, was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.

He did not have one year’s continuous service so could not make an unfair dismissal claim. He filed claims of race discrimination in the way the original complaint had been handled and for wrongful dismissal.

The original tribunal dismissed both his claims but the EAT has now upheld his Race Relations Act (RRA) 'detriment' claim.

There was no doubt, on the facts, that his manager treated the complaint differently because the employee was black. However, there was no adverse finding made at the disciplinary meeting and ‘his word had been accepted’. The original tribunal considered that the employee had suffered no 'detriment' and so could not make an RRA claim based on the complaint
The EAT disagrees - he was disadvantaged in the circumstances in which he had thereafter had to work and so had suffered a detriment and was entitled to compensation for injury to feelings.

Points to note –

  • Compensation for injury to feelings is available in discrimination cases, but not in unfair dismissal claims. Employers should note that, in such cases, the issue of detriment is considered from the point of view of the claimant. If they are not being unreasonable in considering it a detriment, the tribunal will accept that a detriment exists and compensate them accordingly. In this case the compensation would not be great because the employee only remained at the workplace for a few days. In other cases, substantial sums have been awarded.
  • The claimant in this case had not alleged RRA discrimination in relation to his dismissal so could not raise an argument on that issue. Whether he would have succeeded in arguing that his dismissal was ‘tainted’ by race discrimination, given that he disobeyed a clear order from his employer, is doubtful.