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In a recent case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) scrutinised a matter involving a Claimant who had recently ascended to the position of Assistant General Manager at a health club operated by the Respondent.

Post-promotion, the Claimant instigated investigations against three colleagues, leading to disciplinary measures. Subsequently, these colleagues filed grievances against the Claimant, asserting bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, race, and nationality.

The Claimant found himself suspended and summoned to a disciplinary meeting concerning the alleged comments. Contesting bias in the process and asserting non-compliance with proper procedures by his colleagues, the Claimant also claimed unlawful harassment and reported a threat against him.

Following the disciplinary hearing, the Claimant faced dismissal for gross misconduct. Despite appealing the decision, the dismissal was upheld. Subsequently, the Claimant brought forth various claims against the Respondent, including a charge of race discrimination, contending that he faced disparate treatment due to his race, comparing it to the treatment to that of his  colleagues.


On the race discrimination claim, the Employment Tribunal (ET) found sufficient evidence supporting the conclusion that the Claimant had suffered direct discrimination based on his race. The ET emphasised the significance of disciplinary action resulting from an allegation against the Claimant, while a similar comment made to him had not triggered any action.

However, the EAT intervened, highlighting the failure of the ET to assess whether there were significant differences between the Claimant and his comparators, as mandated by the Equality Act 2010 for a direct discrimination claim. Specifically, the EAT noted the oversight in not considering the potential significance of the fact that the Claimant was accused of making a comment about a colleague’s race, whereas the other employee had referred to her own race in a self-directed comment. Furthermore, the EAT criticised the ET for treating the three employees as comparators without analysing material differences in their circumstances compared to the Claimant. This resulted in an incorrect shift of the burden of proof to the Respondent to disprove the discrimination allegations.

This case underscores the importance of diligently addressing all complaints and grievances, even if they appear to be responses to disciplinary actions. Moreover, when a subsequent claim is raised, it is crucial to scrutinise the comparators, ensuring they are not materially different from the individual bringing the claim. Proper assessment is essential to avoid inaccurately shifting the burden of proof and to uphold fairness and justice in employment discrimination cases.

Please note that this information is for general guidance only and should not substitute professional legal advice. If you have specific concerns, we recommend consulting one of our legal experts.


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