Discrimination based on trade union activities did not justify a lower award than claims for sex and race discrimination.
Appellant's ('the council') appeal from the decision of the Employment Tribunal holding the council liable for discriminating against A because of her trade union activities. A was employed by the respondent as a administration support manager in the external catering department. A was also the elected unison shop steward and represented the interests of the workforce during negotiations with the management. The evidence disclosed that she had fulfilled her role well and drove a hard bargain on behalf of her colleagues. In May 2000, the applicant was interviewed for the post of office manager (a promotion). The Employment Tribunal found that she was the preferred candidate. Her line manager informed her that she was to be promoted. However, in June 2000, the council withdrew its offer. It sought to justify its decision on grounds such as the applicant's sickness record, her lack of flexibility and the fact that she was inexperienced in certain fields. The Employment Tribunal was unconvinced by these reasons and held that A had suffered discrimination because of her trade union activities. It awarded #5,000 in compensation for injury to feelings. The council appealed the amount of the award on the grounds that: (i) the tribunal failed to give proper reasons for fixing the level of compensation; (ii) the tribunal should have made explicit comparison with the appropriate range of awards in personal injury cases; (iii) the tribunal erred in treating the awards for damages for injury to feelings as being in the same range as those awarded in cases of sex or race discrimination; (iv) the award was in all the circumstances excessive.
HELD: (1) The Court of Appeal decision in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (2002) EWCA Civ 1871 was authority for the proposition that it was impossible to justify or explain a particular sum for injury to feelings, with the same kind of solid evidential foundation and persuasive practical reasoning used in the calculation of financial loss or compensation for bodily injury. (2) Although the Employment Tribunal made no comparisons to any personal injury cases, it was aware that the award ought to have a broad general similarity to the range of awards in personal injury cases. There was no need for the Employment Tribunal to state where it would have placed the award in comparison to the spectrum of personal injury awards. (3) There was nothing to suggest that awards for discrimination based on trade union grounds justified a lower award of compensation than other forms of discrimination (e.g. sex and race discrimination). (4) The amount of the award in each case depended upon the circumstances of that case. In the present case, there were no errors in the Employment Tribunal's decision and the award for injury to feelings was not excessive in the circumstances.