An employer has lost an employment tribunal claim and has been ordered to pay over £50,000 in compensation to its former sales manager after the Employment Tribunal found that staff had been told to 'make up' written complaints about him.
The Ashford Employment Tribunal heard evidence of age discrimination, "mystery" complaint phone calls and letters, and inconsistent reasons for warnings and penalties. After hearing all the evidence, the Tribunal awarded the Claimant £52,200 for unfair dismissal and age discrimination (lost wages and injury to feelings). The Claimant represented himself at the Tribunal hearing.
The claimant – who was 55 - told the Tribunal that there was no other manager over the age of 50 working at the Respondent's golf club. He also alleged that the position of group sales membership manager was offered to a 28-year-old and not to him, despite him having a good track record with the Respondent. The Tribunal also heard that the Respondent had made up false complaints about him.
Firstly, never make up evidence! Witnesses will always be found out and the nature of the disclosure process in the Tribunal system will always throw up evidence. Email trails will always come back to haunt. Also, remember in discrimination claims, the claimant does not need to show the decision of the employer was because of their age, sex or race etc. The job of the claimant is to infer discrimination – "there is no other reason for their decision so it must be because of my age etc." The case will then turn to the respondent to show it had an 'innocent explanation' for the difference in treatment.
This claim illustrates the importance of:-
- Being clear – are you seeking to discipline or performance manage, the approach and procedures are different.
- Never make up allegations or evidence.
- Consider all candidates for roles – including existing employees. Everyone should be treated equally and on their own merits.
- Have clear policies on equal opportunities, monitor their effectiveness and train your managers!
- Don't underestimate claimants without legal representation – the facts will speak for themselves.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.