As it’s Halloween we thought we’d share a few seasonal stories of our own and some tricks to help you protect your organisation from falling foul of mischief (far more effective than garlic!)
1. Employer becomes Michael Myers’ victim…
In City of York Council v Grosset an employer was found to have discriminated against a teacher who showed the horror film Halloween to underage students during a lesson. The Court of Appeal found that the dismissal was discrimination arising from disability which the employer could not objectively justify. The employee was suffering from stress at the time of his actions which was linked to his cystic fibrosis. It was held that had the employer made reasonable adjustments to reduce the work pressure on the employee to alleviate the stress he was under it was extremely unlikely that his judgement would have been impaired and he would have shown the film. The employer was ordered to pay a terrifying award of over £600,000.
If you are disciplining a disabled employee, remember to consider whether their actions could be linked to their disability. As part of the process, medical advice may need to be obtained regarding this. As dealing with conduct issues can be tricky, it’s important to seek advice on the facts of your case before taking action.
2. Hubble bubble toil and trouble…
In Biggin Hill Airport v Derwich an employee was dismissed in part for placing an image of a witch as a screensaver on the computer of a colleague with whom she had fallen out. Whilst the employer followed a disciplinary process before dismissing, there were defects in the process, including a failure to provide the employee with all the witness statements before she was dismissed. The courts didn’t know ‘witch’ way to turn with this one. The tribunal found the dismissal unfair but the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that it was possible for the defects to have been cured at the disciplinary appeal stage and remitted the case to a different employment tribunal to consider.
If you are managing a conduct issue it’s always better to ensure that the correct process is followed from the outset but sometimes mistakes happen. If there are procedural defects in an initial disciplinary hearing, an appeal by an employee can be a valuable opportunity to try to remedy this. If you receive an appeal from an employee, contact your Employment Law Specialist to see if you need to try to work some magic in your case.
3. Not just trick or treat…
In Holland v Angel Supermarket Ltd a Wiccan employee requested to change her shift over Halloween so that she could celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. She claimed that she was later mocked by her employer and colleagues, who made jokes based around a stereotypical view of witches, which she found offensive. She was later dismissed by her employer, supposedly for financial reasons. The employee won her tribunal claims for sex discrimination and religion or belief discrimination and unfair dismissal and was awarded over £15,000 in compensation.
Remember that employees have many different views and beliefs, and this will include those on Halloween. For some, Halloween is a bit of fun and a chance to dress up, whereas for others it may be more serious, or they may not like Halloween. Whatever someone’s views, it’s important that all employees are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. It should be borne in mind that in some circumstances such as those in the Holland case, what employees may see as a joke or just a bit of banter, can cross the line into discrimination or harassment.
If you are considering having a workplace event to mark Halloween, remember to be sensitive to all employees as it is important that nobody is made to feel uncomfortable.
If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.