Legal Updates

Employment – Race Relations – Discrimination – Redundancy

In the recent case of Williams v Corus Hotels Plc [2006], a female employee of Afro-Caribbean origin was made redundant by a hotel chain where she worked.  The hotel was closed in 2004 and sold off for redevelopment. Her employer operated a number of hotels throughout the UK. The issue arose as to whether alternative employment should have been found for the employee elsewhere within the group.

The employee applied for two internal vacancies, both positions being very similar to the post she held prior to her redundancy. She was rejected for both positions. Both successful candidates were white. The employee claimed unfair dismissal and race discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.

With regards to the unfair dismissal claim, the Tribunal accepted that the dismissal was due to redundancy, but held that the employer had failed to act in a procedurally fair manner. In particular, the list of vacancies was unreliable, there was a lack of consultation with the employee about other possible jobs, and no priority had been given to an internal application of an employee facing redundancy.

The Tribunal  also held that there had been racial discrimination in rejecting both of the employee’s applications. They found that there was a prima facie case which shifted the burden to the employer. It was held that the two successful applicants had been treated more favourably than the employee and had been subjected to a less rigorous process of selection. The employer had failed to convince the Tribunal  that there was an absence of racial discrimination.

The employer appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, however the appeal was dismissed.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that the Tribunal was correct in its findings that there was a case of racial discrimination. As far as the unfair dismissal claim was concerned, it was clear that the question of alternative employment had not been handled satisfactorily. The Tribunal was correct in its decision.

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© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.




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