Remember to be proportionate when dealing with an employee’s vexatious grievance
In a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) case, it was held that it was fair to dismiss an employee for raising numerous grievances but failing to progress or withdraw them.
Mr Hope was employed by the British Medical Association (BMA) as a senior policy adviser from June 2014 until he was dismissed for gross misconduct on 24 May 2019.
Mr Hope had brought a number of grievances against senior managers. He discussed the grievances informally with his line manager, but his line manager did not have the authority to resolve them. Mr Hope then refused to progress any of his grievances to the formal stage, he also refused to withdraw them.
A grievance hearing was arranged but Mr Hope refused to attend. He was informed that his attendance was considered to be a reasonable instruction and so the hearing proceeded, without him, and his grievances were not upheld.
The BMA said that the bringing of numerous vexatious grievances and his refusal to comply with a reasonable management instruction to attend the grievance hearing, amounted to gross misconduct and so he was dismissed.
Both the Employment Tribunal and the EAT held that the dismissal was fair. It was reasonable for the employer to conclude that Mr Hope’s behaviour was unreasonable.
Mr Hope argued that the Tribunal had failed to consider whether his conduct was capable of amounting to gross misconduct in the contractual sense. It was held that it was not necessary for the employer to show that he had wilfully committed a breach of contract, or had committed ‘gross negligence’ in order to find he had committed an act of gross misconduct.
This serves as a cautionary tale for employees and shows employers that they don’t have to be cornered when dealing with repeated and vexatious grievances. However, when faced with an employee raising vexatious grievances, employers must always remember that any action they take must be fair and proportionate.
If you have any questions about dealing with employees’ grievances, please contact our employment team.