Don’t strike too fast – strike-outs and discrimination claims
An Employment Tribunal has the power to strike out a claim on a variety of grounds, such as there being no reasonable prospects that it will be successful. In the recent case of Timbo v Greenwich Council for Racial Equality the Employment Appeal Tribunal has provided some interesting comments in relation to striking out discrimination claims.
Ms Timbo joined GCRE as an Equalities Officer in 2009. After about six months, the employment relationship deteriorated and she submitted two grievances. Ms Timbo’s line manager also raised a grievance about her. In response to the line manager’s grievance, GCRE suspended Ms Timbo and, after a disciplinary hearing, summarily dismissed her. Ms Timbo raised proceedings for race and sex discrimination after her appeal was unsuccessful.
On day 3 of the 4-day Employment Tribunal hearing, GCRE made an application for the claim to be struck out. The Tribunal granted this application and dismissed Ms Timbo’s claim. In doing so, it noted that Ms Timbo had made various allegations that could only be decided by assessing her credibility, and concluded that her credibility was fatally flawed.
Ms Timbo’s appeal to the EAT was successful. The EAT held that in the majority of cases, a Tribunal should not decide on allegations in relation to discrimination until it has heard all of the evidence. For this reason, applications for strike out will “be appropriate only in exceptional and frivolous cases”.
This case is particularly interesting because it comes against a backdrop of Government proposals to increase an Employment Judge’s power to filter out weak claims at an early stage. In contrast, the EAT’s judgment suggests that the majority of discrimination claims should proceed to a full hearing.
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