Witness intimidation in ET penalized
Posted: 29th April 2016
Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings are often fraught and tempers can become frayed. However, the Court of Appeal has made clear in a guideline decision that the law will come down like a ton of bricks on any attempt at witness intimidation.
The case concerned two women who worked for a care homes company until one of them was dismissed and the other resigned in sympathy for her. Both of them launched claims before an ET, variously alleging unfair dismissal, victimisation and direct discrimination. Their claims were to be heard consecutively.
On the day of the hearings, one of the company’s managers threatened one of the women during an adjournment in an attempt to induce her to withdraw her support for the other’s case. Another manager drove his car at speed towards the woman as she used a zebra crossing, leaving her in fear and deeply shaken. The ET’s response to those incidents was to debar the company from defending the women’s claims. Both of them succeeded and were awarded damages.
In dismissing the company’s challenge to that outcome, the Court found that the managers’ conduct was extremely serious and spoke for itself. They had conducted themselves in a scandalous and unreasonable manner so that it became impossible to hold a fair trial. Barring the company from participating in the proceedings was a proportionate response and could not be faulted.