Workplace whistleblowers are protected by law and employers have to be extremely careful not to persecute them for their activities. In one case that proved the point, two police detectives who were removed from undercover duties after making complaints about management won the right to substantial compensation.
The two officers had made repeated and undoubtedly serious complaints about the management of their unit and were so concerned that they covertly recorded certain meetings with senior officers. Both men ultimately lodged formal complaints with the professional standards department of the force for which they worked. They were moved to civilian duties shortly thereafter.
The force argued that the more senior of the two had been moved because of his close social links to a corrupt officer who had been convicted of selling seized drugs back to criminals. It was submitted that his junior colleague had been similarly shifted after he decorated himself with a tattoo which was said to make him unsuitable for either undercover work or a return to normal policing.
However, in upholding both men’s claims under the Employment Rights Act 1996, an Employment Tribunal found that the detriments to which they had been subjected had been materially influenced by their whistleblowing activities. The force’s challenge to that decision, on perversity and other grounds, was dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The amount of the officers’ compensation remained to be assessed.