In Base Childrenswear v Otshudi, the EAT has upheld a Tribunal decision to award compensation of £16,000 for a one-off act of race discrimination. The case also suggests employers are obliged to deal with post-employment grievances, in accordance with the ACAS Code on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures.
Miss Otshudi had been employed by Base for three months when she was dismissed summarily. Miss Otshudi was told she was being made redundant, however believed she was dismissed because of her race. Miss Otshudi appealed her dismissal and raised a grievance alleging race discrimination, which was ultimately ignored by Base.
The Tribunal found that Miss Otshudi’s dismissal was an act of racial harassment. It awarded her £16,000 for injury to feelings – an award falling within the middle “Vento band” – and also uplifted the award (as well as others) by 25 per cent because of Base’s failure to deal with her grievance, which it found was a breach of the ACAS Code.
On appeal, the EAT confirmed the Tribunal was entitled to make the injury to feelings award that it did. It had correctly focused on the effect of the discriminatory act on Miss Otshudi; whether it was a one-off act was relevant but did not preclude the making of an award within the middle Vento band. The EAT made no comment on the uplift awarded for failure to comply with the ACAS Code, and although that point was not specifically appealed, the EAT’s silence suggests the Tribunal was entitled to uplift compensation where a post-employment grievance was ignored.
Nick Benton comments:
“Whilst the ACAS Code does not expressly state employers should deal with post-employment grievances, this case suggests a failure to do so could expose them to risk. The case is also a useful reminder that one-off acts of discrimination can result in significant awards of compensation. Employers are therefore well advised to take steps to guard against such discriminatory conduct, for instance by ensuring staff receive equalities training.”
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