The decision in Cadent Gas Ltd v Singh is another example of a case in which an employer was found liable for a type of discrimination (in relation to trade union activities in this case), even though the decision takers in the case were not motivated by animosity to the employee's trade union activities. Although the decision was handed down before the Supreme Court decision in Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti, it is consistent with the Supreme Court's reasoning.
Mr Singh was a gas engineer with nearly 30 years' service and an unblemished disciplinary record. He was also an active trade union official and in that capacity had made a number of complaints about his Network Manager, Mr Huckerby. In 2017 Mr Singh was one minute late to attend a priority gas incident because there was a delay in allocating the job to him and he needed to stop for food and drink on the way to the call out. Although Mr Singh was initially told that no further action would be taken, Mr Huckerby instigated a disciplinary investigation. He made various references to the employee's status as a trade union representative, provided misleading evidence to HR about the incident and remained involved in the investigation even though he was not the investigating manager. Mr Singh was dismissed for gross misconduct.
Mr Singh successfully claimed that the dismissal was on grounds of his trade union activities and automatically unfair. Even though the disciplinary and appeal manager were not motivated by prejudice because of Mr Singh's trade union activities, the tribunal found that the history of animosity and disputes between him and Mr Huckerby, Mr Huckerby's involvement in the investigation and the fact that he had not given evidence, were sufficient for it to conclude that Mr Singh's trade union activities were the principal reason for the dismissal.
The EAT dismissed the employer's appeal. The relevant question was whether the claimant's trade union activities played a part in the decision to dismiss him. It did not matter whether the decision to dismiss was motivated by prejudice against his status as a trade union representative. Given that the employer had failed to provide evidence about elements of the claimant's treatment, in particular Mr Huckerby's role in the investigation, it was open to the tribunal to conclude that his trade union activities influenced the dismissal.
In any event, this was the sort of case where the motivation and knowledge of someone who was not a decision taker could be attributed to the employer, even though the decision taker did not share that motivation. Mr Huckerby had a poor relationship with Mr Singh because of his trade union activities and played a leading and directing role in the investigation into his conduct, where other employees had been treated differently for similar conduct. His active role meant that there was "manipulation" of the sort that made it appropriate for the employer to be liable for unfair dismissal for a proscribed reason.