Generally employment tribunals have often stressed the importance for employers to act consistently when disciplining or dismissing an employee – (ie, by taking into account how they have historically treated other employees in comparable situations).
In this case a solicitor brought a claim for unfair dismissal and race discrimination after his firm dismissed him for missing a time limit, when at least one other solicitor in the firm had only received a warning in similar circumstances in the past. The solicitor was successful at the tribunal, however the EAT reversed this decision.
The EAT made it clear that inconsistencies with earlier treatment of other employees must not be allowed to supersede the statutory test for unfair dismissal. Employers should therefore focus on fairness and reasonable procedures and not necessarily feel bound by previous decisions where there are good reasons to depart from them.
The EAT also reversed the tribunal’s findings of discrimination and stated that the main issue was whether the decision to dismiss was wholly or in part because of the solicitor’s race. The mere fact that the employer had treated an employee of a different race less severely in the past was not in itself evidence of race discrimination.
Levenes Solicitors v Dalley