Winckworth Sherwood

UK 200 2013 position: 94

EAT decision confirms there is no easy way to dismiss 'obsessive' litigious employees

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently clarified its position on workplace victimisation and dismissal in Woodhouse v West North West Homes Leeds Ltd [2013]: it restricted the effect of Martin v Devonshires Solicitors [2010] to ensure that employers cannot easily avoid victimisation provisions when dismissing litigious employees.

The purpose of section 27 of the Equality Act is to protect employees from victimisation by their employers. When an employer either dismisses an employee or subjects them to detrimental treatment because they have performed a protected act, such as bringing a grievance, a claim of unlawful victimisation will arise.

Martin had muddied the waters between the protected act and the dismissal: in that case, Miss Martin’s persistent grievances, although in good faith and therefore protected, resulted from paranoid delusions. The EAT concluded that Martin’s dismissal was not based on the protected act, but rather a ‘sufficiently separable’ issue, namely her mental health and the inevitable future claims and costs to the employer which would arise from that…

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