The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that procedural failings and inclusion in an internal appeal panel of an individual (who was junior to the decision-maker) does not necessarily result in an unfair dismissal.
The employee was a British woman of Nigerian origin and black African ethnicity and who was dismissed due to her failure to co-operate with, support or lead a change in the service in which she worked. She appealed but the decision was upheld by a panel consisting of three senior managers and an independent advisor.
She brought claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, whistleblowing, race discrimination and victimisation. The tribunal found that there were flaws in the first stage of the disciplinary process. However, it found that these flaws were corrected by the appeal process and that the dismissal was fair. The claims were all dismissed by the tribunal and she appealed.
The EAT agreed. In particular it noted that any flaws were rectified in the appeal process because:
- the appeal panel contained two other members who were senior, as well as an independent advisor,
- the failure to put all allegations to the employee in the first stage of the disciplinary process had been cured by the appeal; and
- the involvement of the panel member in a previous issue had been minor and had taken place 18 months previously.
It is a timely reminder for employers to consider appeals as a rehearing rather than a review and to rectify any mistakes in the earlier process.