When faced with a barrage of claims from a former employee, many employers feel intimidated and nervous about defending their position all the way to a hearing before the Employment Tribunal.
The feeling is often that the Employment Tribunal may take the view that there is “no smoke without fire.” However, it is important to remember that each case is heard on its own merits, with the credibility and reliability of each witness assessed along with an analysis of the law applied to the facts of the case.
In our recent case, the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service defended claims of constructive unfair dismissal, direct sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, indirect discrimination and victimisation brought by a former middle management level female firefighter.
As there are still comparatively few female firefighters in the Service, particularly at management level (something they are actively taking steps to address), complaints of unfair treatment and discrimination are taken very seriously. Having thoroughly investigated the allegations in this case, the Service were certain that all involved had done nothing wrong, had tried their best to support the firefighter concerned and that there was no case to answer.
After hearing the evidence, considering all the relevant documents and hearing legal submissions, the Employment Tribunal agreed with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and the claims were dismissed in their entirety. The Service witnesses were found to be reliable and credible and their evidence was preferred.
Employers, therefore, with the help of specialist legal advice should not be afraid to maintain a defence to allegations made against the organisation which are unfounded. In this case the Senior Managers involved who had made the decisions affecting the firefighter concerned were vindicated: this is important for any business where those involved can feel attacked or undermined by the allegations made.
With this specific case it was important to the Service witnesses to be believed and for their employer to have supported them to ensure that their own professional reputations, and that of the Organisation, remain unblemished.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, commented:
"We were delighted to have Miller Samuel Hill Brown as part of our legal team, working in partnership to get a successful outcome for the Service. This case demonstrated that our managers followed applied our policy and processes correctly to this case and acted with integrity throughout."
For further advice on this and other employment-related matters, please contact Marie Macdonald at Miller Samuel Hill Brown.