Case law: Employers should consider reasons of all involved in potentially discriminatory decisions to dismiss
It is not uncommon for a number of people within an organisation to influence a decision to terminate an employee's employment contract. Employers should therefore bear in mind a recent ruling when considering terminating employees' contracts, particularly to make sure the reasons are not directly discriminatory.
This update was published in Legal Alert – July 2014
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A doctor brought an age discrimination claim after a manager terminated her consultancy following internal criticism and a negative internal report. As the claim was for direct age discrimination, the Employment Tribunal (ET) had to consider the reasons for her treatment. It looked at the manager's reasons, including whether he had been influenced by any conscious or subconscious discriminatory mental processes or motives such as stereotypical assumptions about older employees.
The ET decided he had not, and that he had genuinely believed the doctor was unlikely to be able to adapt to new working conditions. It therefore ruled that the termination was not discriminatory.
However, on appeal the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that others in the organisation had influenced the decision - such as those who had been consulted when the internal report was drawn up. Their reasons should also be considered, but as the ET had not heard any evidence from some of them it remitted the case to a different tribunal for reconsideration.
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