An employee was dismissed fairly when he repeatedly brought frivolous and vexatious grievances.
Case: Hope v British Medical Association 2021
Mr Hope, a senior policy advisor for the British Medical Association (‘BMA’), was accused of being unprofessional and dismissive to a superior, Mrs Dunn, in an email by a director of the BMA, Mr Jethwa. Mr Hope raised a grievance seeking clarification from BMA that it did not share this view.
The appeal was not upheld and the outcome letter expressed some disappointment that Mr Hope had not taken up the offer to meet with Mr Jethwa to discuss the matter and suggested that he should now do so to discuss effective ways of working moving forward.
However, Mr Hope complained about not being invited to a meeting by Mrs Dunn, questioning whether this was because of him raising a grievance. Having complained numerous times over several months, informal discussions took place between Mr Hope and his Manager but did not resolve matters.
Mr Hope refused to pursue the matter formally when asked, but wanted to retain the ability to do so. When he was given a deadline to decide if he wanted to pursue the matter formally, he raised a further grievance calling the deadline “arbitrary”. He again questioned why he was not being invited to a meeting with Mrs Dunn. She began to feel bullied at this point.
Mr Jethwa called a further meeting at this point but Mr Hope complained again stating that it was not appropriate for him to be involved. Mr Hope was offered a meeting with Mrs Dunn also but he refused to attend. Mr Hope was warned that if he continued using the grievance procedure in this way, it would be treated as a disciplinary issue. Mr Hope raised further grievances in response to this and he was invited to a formal grievance hearing.
The chair of the meeting concluded that Mr Hope’s insistence on keeping the grievance meetings informal, refusing to attend and instigating more grievances was an abuse of process. He was subsequently dismissed following a disciplinary process.
The Employment Tribunal
The employment tribunal held that the dismissal was not unfair as the employer had carried out a reasonable investigation and disciplinary procedure. It was reasonable in these circumstances for the employer to conclude that Mr Hope’s behaviour was unreasonable and vexatious. As such, his dismissal was for a potentially fair reason.
Employers should be careful to ensure that a fair process is followed when considering dismissal. They also need to make sure that employees are being dismissed for a potentially fair reason, as in the above case.
Posted on February 10, 2022