The Mirror is today reporting that an ex-NHS employee has been awarded over £1 million in the Employment Tribunal. Elliot Browne, 55, pursued his ex-employer Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, for race discrimination and unfair dismissal after he was dismissed in 2008. He had worked there for 38 years – quite a considerable period of time.
Mr Browne alleged that he had been subjected to discriminatory treatment in the year prior to his dismissal. He stated that he was subjected to an ‘intimidating environment’ at work which very nearly caused him psychological harm. The Tribunal found on the balance of probabilities that Mr Browne had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him compensation for loss of earnings and his loss of pension. He was, according to the article, also awarded aggravated damages (relating to his discrimination claim). This would therefore suggest that he also succeeded in his claim for race discrimination and – looking at the ‘intimidating environment’ quote above – possibly harassment. The Manchester Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Browne £933,115 in damages.
Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (“the Respondent”) has indicated that they will appeal against the finding – which is not surprising having looked at the value of the award. Their grounds of appeal appears to be the fact that the Employment Tribunal made an error of law in finding that there was discrimination present. Presumably, this was a case for direct race discrimination and (again, this is a guess based upon the wording of the article) harassment.
To prove direct discrimination Mr Browne would have had to show that he was treated less favourably than other employees of the Respondent because of his race (or nationality or ethnic origins). He would have had to show a direct causal link between his protected characteristic (race, nationality or ethnic origins) and the reason why he was treated differently. If it had been found on the balance of probabilities that Mr Browne had been treated differently, such differential treatment would only become discriminatory if it was because of his race, nationality or ethnic origin. The Respondent may be appealing on this point – attempting to show that some other reason existed for his differential treatment that wasn’t based on a protected characteristic.
Further, if Mr Browne had pursued an Employment Tribunal claim for harassment he would have had to have proved on the balance of probabilities that there had been conduct by employees of the Respondent that had had the purpose or effect of humiliating him, creating an offensive environment for him, or degrading him. The conduct must have been such that it would have had the same effect on a reasonable person – the Claimant cannot be too overly-sensitive. There are no facts available here, though, relating to harassment.
An interesting point is that the Respondent doesn’t appear to be seeking to overturn the finding of unfair dismissal. Whether this is in fact true is unknown.
It is important if you are being discriminated against to keep a record of any discriminatory behaviour in a diary and to ensure that you keep any relevant documentation (such as staff handbooks, emails or memos) that you believe are discriminatory.