No victimisation where proceedings brought to 'harass' employer

In HM Prison Service v Ibimidun the EAT has held that a claimant who was dismissed for bringing proceedings under the Race Relations Act 1976 was not subjected to victimisation because his dismissal resulted from the manner in which he brought proceedings, rather than the fact of those proceedings. In the circumstances, the claimant's dismissal for bringing proceedings simply to harass his employer, rather than to receive just compensation, was not an act deserving of protection under the victimisation provisions.

I, a black prison officer, worked at Belmarsh prison from 1999 until he was dismissed in 2005. During that period he brought numerous tribunal claims based on various allegations of race discrimination and victimisation. Although some succeeded, some were dismissed for being misconceived or having no reasonable prospects of success and, over the course of the litigation, I had five separate costs order made against him totalling almost £7,000. He was dismissed as a result of these claims, which HMPS considered were simply a campaign designed to produce a settlement, and which had led to the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties breaking down. I then brought further claims stemming from his dismissal. He argued that his ongoing claims were protected acts and that his dismissal based on those claims amounted to victimisation contrary to S.2 RRA. He also claimed that his dismissal was unfair. The tribunal upheld all of I's claims and HMPS appealed to the EAT.

The EAT held that the tribunal had erred in finding that I had been victimised. The victimisation provisions were not designed to protect someone who brought claims 'not to seek just compensation, but to harass his employer into a settlement by a sustained campaign of litigation', as the tribunal found I had done. The EAT also overturned the unfair dismissal finding, which had been reached on the basis that it could not be reasonable to dismiss I for an act protected by S.2 RRA. Applying the test set down by the EAT in British Home Stores Ltd v Burchell 1980 ICR 303, HMPS had a genuine belief that the claims had been brought to harass it and reasonable grounds for this belief. It had therefore acted reasonably in the dismissal. The tribunal's findings of liability would therefore be set aside.

The case will be reported in full in a future edition of IDS Employment Law Brief.

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The legal content in this article is believed to be correct and true on this date.