In Brief: Case Law Special (January 2019)Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 4 February 2019
This month’s 'In Brief' is a common law catch up. It can be hard to keep up-to-date with case law developments – it’s all too easy to miss an important decision that has major implications for employers and employees. For this very reason we decided to compile a list of some of the most interesting employment cases that have been decided in the last few months.
If you want to know more about any of the cases, each has a link to a more detailed case review on the Northern Ireland Employment Law Hub, where you will also find a further link to the full judgment online.
The decisions highlighted in this article cover a wide range of employment issues, including direct discrimination on grounds of sex and religion; the failure to make reasonable adjustments; unfair dismissal in connection with a disability; entitlement to written terms and conditions; employment status and the gig economy; harassment; racial discrimination and the need to conduct thorough investigations; natural justice and procedural fairness.
The tribunal held this case fell at the upper end of the Vento scale and ordered the respondent to pay £30,000 compensation for injury to feelings.
“It is difficult to conceive of a more blatant and corrosive campaign of conduct conducted by the respondent, who additionally involved other members of staff in the humiliation of the claimant, in his home and at work.”
Another reasonable adjustments case - factually, however, this case is quite unique in that it was left entirely to the claimant to research the sort of support mechanisms that would help her return to work. Indeed, not only did she make all enquiries into the voice recognition software, but she was also expected to research and apply for relevant grants to fund it.
The claimant, a lorry driver who suffered from Type 2 Diabetes, was summarily dismissed following reports that he had urinated in the loading yard of a shopping centre. The tribunal held the respondent failed to take the claimant’s disability into account. He had been unfairly dismissed as the incident arose in connection with his disability and reinstatement was granted.
The claimants argued they had not been furnished with a statement of their terms and conditions during the course of their employment or anytime thereafter. The practical effect of this judgment is that employees are entitled to a statement of their employment particulars after one month. The next month is essentially a grace period to allow employers to issue them.
The Court of Appeal ruled by majority that Uber drivers are workers and not self-employed contractors. The appeal solely concerned Uber drivers in London but, as with many gig economy cases, it has ramifications for many potentially miscategorised workers who have been denied holiday pay and other employment rights because they are labelled inaccurately.
This was a judicial review challenge to an earlier decision that riders are not considered 'workers' for the purposes of establishing the right to collective bargaining arrangements. In contrast to the Uber decision, riders were deemed to be self-employed contractors as opposed workers as they were able to sub-contract out their work. Deliveroo argued that the flexibility it offers is a major advantage to riders that must be preserved.
This case concerns the harassment of a disabled employee who overheard a vulgar rant by his manager after he accidentally pocket-dialled him. The tribunal held that the derogatory terms used to describe the claimant and how he was compared unfavourably to an “able bodied” team member was both a violation of his dignity and created a degrading and humiliating environment for him.
The claimant worked on the production line for a small, family owned company. She suffered from a degenerative eye condition. She began to suffer pain and discomfort in her eyes when making the products. The tribunal held she was unlawfully discriminated against because the company failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments and instead proceeded to dismiss her.
The claimant was of Black and Afro-Caribbean origin. An incident occurred when he was driving into the hospital car park. The tribunal held that the respondent’s investigation was “fundamentally flawed” and that the claimant was “interrogated” in a way that prevented him telling his story. Given that termination of his contract was a likely outcome, a more stringent investigation should have been conducted encompassing a comprehensive review of all the evidence.
The claimant in this case tested positive for cocaine in a random drugs test. He argued the decision to dismiss was procedurally and substantively unfair. The judgment focuses on the concept of ‘reasonableness’ and, once again, highlights the need for a thorough investigation.
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.