BT v Reid
Court of Appeal - (6th October 2003)
(1) Race discrimination
(2) Injury to feelings
(3) Vento guidelines
Reid, who was Afro-Caribbean descent, had been employed by BT to work on a shift with two other men, E & S. There was a heated argument between the men regarding the use of a telephone for personal calls. Reid was prodded and threatened, by E, who said “I will get someone to put you back in your cage”. Reid left work and did not return until the next day.
BT began disciplinary proceedings against Reid for abandoning his duty. Upon hearing Reid’s explanation, BT investigated the conduct of E. It was concluded, after 14 months investigation, that E had not made the comments alleged. In the interim, both E & S were promoted to positions more senior to Reid.
In line with Occupational Health Guidelines, Reid was transferred away from E to another site. Due to the length of travel involved, he was moved again.
As BT had not proved that it had taken such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent E behaving in the way he did, it would be held liable for E’s actions.
The Tribunal made an award for injury to feelings, recognising that Reid had had a difficult time and had suffered stress as a result of his first transfer and because his grievance had not been investigated for 14 months.
The Tribunal also awarded Reid aggravated damages on the basis that E has not been punished but promoted.
Accordingly Reid was awarded £6,000.00 for injury to feelings and £2,000.00 by way of aggravated damages.
The employer appealed the decision, which was unsuccessful of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. BT then appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The appeal was dismissed.
The consequences of the discrimination were relevant to the inquiry into injury to Reid’s
feelings. The Court could easily appreciate the exacerbating effects of an unjustified
investigation, the delayed grievance investigation and the stress caused by dealing with the
aftermath of the incident was an element of injury. The Tribunal had not been mistaken, and
its judgment was sufficiently reasoned.
The Tribunal was entitled to take account of the fact that E was unpunished, and had actually been promoted. The award of £8,000.00 compensation (for injury to feelings together with aggravated damages) based on one single incident of direct discrimination was neither wrong nor excessive.
The Court of Appeal upheld the award, even though only a single one-off complaint was made out. The award was not out of the line with the guidelines in Vento, and was within the power of the Tribunal to grant, although it was noted that there was no evidence of oppressive action by the employer towards Reid. It was sufficient to look at the actions of E, who had not been punished and had been promoted.