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Equality claimants could be left footing the bill following landmark ruling

Employment tribunal claimants may find themselves footing the bill of failed claims following a new ruling by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). In the case of

Daleside Nursing Home v Mrs C Matthew

the decision by a local employment tribunal not to recover costs from the claimant was overturned after a successful appeal at the EAT by the defendants. This is despite it being normal practise for employment tribunals not to award costs against claimants in such cases.



So why did the EAT do this? The EAT found Mrs Matthews claim of racial abuse untrue and furthermore concluded that it was a ‘deliberate and cynical lie’ constituting unreasonable behaviour. Where a claimant has acted “unreasonably” a tribunal can seek to award costs from the claimant. In these circumstances the EAT concluded that the employment tribunal failed to use its power to seek costs from the claimant as she had indeed acted “unreasonably”.



The EAT ruled that Mrs Matthew’s allegation was false on the basis that she had raised the claim three weeks after the alleged incident had happened. The EAT also pointed to surrounding circumstances of the case which had led them to the conclusion that the claimant had raised the claim due to a perceived and real possibility of facing disciplinary proceedings herself.



The EAT judgement stated to that effect,



In our judgment, in a case such as this, where there is such a clear cut finding that the central allegation of racial abuse was a lie, it is perverse for the Tribunal to fail to conclude that the making of such a false allegation at the heart of the claim does not constitute a person acting unreasonably”

The employment tribunal had originally not ordered the costs on the basis that it was their belief that according to Mrs Matthew her claim had merit and therefore she had not acted unreasonably.



So what does this mean? In failed cases of discrimination, and perhaps in wider civil law matters if a claimant is perceived to have made false allegations deliberately, they may be ordered to pay costs. What is significant is that a court has been ordered to apply this in a discrimination case for the first time.  This may act as a huge deterrent to many who have genuine claim but fear that they may not have substantive or questionable evidence. As if discrimination is not already hard enough hard to prove, claimants may have to face the real prospect of paying costs.



And before we call this case unique, let’s consider the basis upon which the claimant’s allegations were judged to be untrue. Firstly the fact that she decided to raise the claim three weeks after the alleged incident. My god! Does that mean we now have a discrimination claim time bomb ticking the moment it such an incident happens!  And the courts belief that the claim was a counter measure to an ensuing disciplinary procedure. Well let’s put a remarkable idea forward, could a victim of discrimination also be likely to face an unfair disciplinary procedure?



Sadly this looks like a case of the tribunal system expressing frustration of an overburdened caseload.  Let’s not blame equality, let’s blame the legislator for introducing lots of great laws and policies to win voters over and failing to put the infrastructure in place to service the emerging strive for overdue equality. Ironically this case is not for equal pay or mandatory retirement but may have paid the price for the courts perceived burden of equality cases.

Ends

posted by

Asif Yusuf

 

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