The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Woodhouse v West North West Homes Leeds Ltd addresses the tricky question of whether there comes a point at which an employer can attempt to draw a line whan an employee raises a number of grievances and brings numerous claims.
In his introduction HHJ Hand QC points out that the scale of the task faced by the Leeds Employment Tribunal in this case should not be underestimated, with over 4000 pages of documents and oral evidence from twenty five witnesses. What led to such a great deal of evidence being considered? For once, it was not a plethora of irrelevant statements and other documents files by the lawyers “to be on the safe side”. Mr Woodhouse, in the course of his four years in employment with West North West raised no fewer than ten internal grievances, all alleging race discrimination. He also brought seven employment tribunal claims against his employer
In 2011 the employer decided to suspend and subsequently to dismiss Mr Woodhouse on the basis that, by his actions, he had demonstrated a loss of trust and confidence in the Company, so that there could not be a sustainable employment relationship going forward.
The employment tribunal rejected claims of race discrimination, harassment and victimisation brought by Mr Woodhouse on the grounds that grievances raised were shown to be without substance so that there could be no corresponding victimisation, the rejection of one grievance woujld inevitably lead to another, that the employer was no longer willing to run the risk of having to deal with damaging and time-consuming allegations, that Mr Woodhouse had become obsessed and, significantly, the decisions to suspend and dismiss were not taken on any racial grounds whatsoever.
On appeal the EAT pointed out that the grievances and claims were “protected acts” and his dismissal resulted from those acts. Since victimisation results from the less favourable treatment of an employee by an employer as a result of the employee doing such acts, the decision of the employment tribunal had to be overturned. the matter must now proceed to a full re-hearing before a newly constituted employment tribunal.