Key Case Law Updates – By Elisabeth Chandler

Discrimination

Although Jersey maintains autonomy from the UK as a Crown dependency, the ruling in the case against Condor Ferries regarding indirect and direct discrimination involving a transgender person is a warning to employers in the UK that they cannot assume they don’t have to do anything if they don’t have any employees who are transgender.

This case related to a transgender woman who asked an employee of Condor Ferries which toilets she should use and their advice was to use the disabled toilets.  The tribunal found that both counts of direct and indirect discrimination were ‘well founded’ and Condor Ferries admitted to a “non-intentional and non-malicious act of discrimination”.  One of the issues raised was that the toilets were labelled ‘Gents’ and ‘Ladies’ which was found to identify gender clearly.

So what can employers do to avoid discrimination claims, however inadvertently the discrimination may be?

  1. Ensure that you have a comprehensive equality and diversity policy which is well published and your employees are fully aware of the policy.
  2. Invest in equality and diversity training for all employees.
  3. If you have bathroom facilities, instead of using words for the signage consider using symbols.
  4. If you have the luxury of designing a new office, consider making the facilities gender neutral.

 

Unfair dismissal

Failure to follow the correct disciplinary procedure has resulted in an ex-employee being awarded £650 whilst being in jail.

Joseph Carter was dismissed from Aulds Bakers as he had been jailed for dangerous driving and breach of the peace in September 2013.  Joseph’s partner contacted the firm to make them aware of the situation but Aulds Bakers did not contact Joseph until November 2013 when they sent him a letter stating he had ‘frustrated’ his contract and subsequently terminated his contract.  The tribunal found that this was incorrect as the Company had failed to follow any procedure in the early stages of the process compounded by making further flaws in the appeal process.

It is important to remember that whilst it may look like a clear cut case of terminating a person’s employment, particularly in such extreme circumstances, companies must follow their own disciplinary procedures or at the very least follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures to avoid any claims of unfair dismissal.

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