Where an employee makes repeated allegations of discrimination which the employee believes to be true but which the employer considers unfounded, employers may be tempted to dismiss on the grounds of a breakdown in trust and confidence. A recent EAT ruling emphasises that in most cases this will amount to unlawful victimisation (because the dismissal is because of a protected act, namely alleging unlawful discrimination, whether or not the original allegations are unfounded).(Woodhouse v West North West Homes Leeds, EAT)
It will only be in exceptional circumstances, such as in Martin v Devonshire Solicitors, that the employer’s reasons can be viewed as separate from the protected acts. The facts in that case were rare: the alleged events were found never to have occurred and likely to be paranoid delusions on the part of a mentally ill employee.
The fact that an employee makes multiple complaints, and becomes “obsessive and fixated” or irrational, does not amount to exceptional circumstances and does not amount to a reason to dismiss separate from the complaints themselves. Employers in this situation need to consider some other form of resolution, perhaps through mediation or workplace counselling, while also ensuring each grievance is properly addressed.