11 June 2015 #Employment
‘Vexatious, malicious and frivolous’ allegations of race discrimination can lead to fair dismissal.
Mr Ngwenya was a black African man who qualified as a teacher in Zimbabwe in 1985. In 2008 he began working at the Respondent, Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School (‘the school’) and gained Qualified Teacher Status in 2008.
The Claimant for the duration of his employment expressed significant dissatisfaction with the school’s recognition of his qualifications and experience, something he believed was reflected in his position and salary. The claims had no real merit, were serious allegations of discrimination and by July 2012 the Chair of the Governing Body suspended the Claimant on the basis the Claimant had (1) made false, inaccurate or misleading statements; (2) made vexatious, malicious and/or frivolous complaints; (3) and as a result, there had been an irretrievable loss of trust and confidence between the school and the Claimant. Mr Ngwenya was dismissed.
The Claimant took his case to the Employment Tribunal, where he contended that he had been the victim of discrimination of the ground of race and had been unfairly dismissed. The Employment Tribunal confirmed that a fair disciplinary process had been followed by the school and the school had been acting reasonably in making its decision to dismiss the Claimant.
The Claimant went on to bring his appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), with legal representation on this occasion. He contended that The Employment Tribunal failed to consider whether the school had reasonable belief that the Appellant had made allegations in bad faith and that consequently the school had victimised him for pursing his right to bring a claim. The Appellant argued that his comparator’s case, another employee who had brought similar allegations, was not adequately considered either.
The EAT decided that the school was entitled to form the view that the Appellant had been acting in bad faith by making the allegations and that the comparator was not really comparable nor really even an issue for Mr Ngwenya as he failed to raise it previously. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal.
The case is in important as there is a balance to be drawn between the employee’s right to advance personal views (even if those views may not be shared by others) and their right to raise grievances and issues compared to employees making false, hurtful and malicious allegations which damage beyond repair the employment relationship.
Law LLB Student, University of Reading