Dismissed music lecturer wins £180,000
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from being victimised. The employee must show that they were subjected to some negative treatment, as a result of a protected act (one of which is doing something for the purposes of discrimination).
Wrongful dismissal is essentially a claim for breach of contract, generally brought by employees who allege they weren’t paid their notice pay entitlement. If an employer legitimately dismisses an employee for gross misconduct, they don’t have to pay the notice period.
This article looks at the recent case of Francesca Carpos, who claimed she had been wrongly dismissed and victimised when she was dismissed on the spot for circulating a memo which allegedly brought her employer’s name into disrepute.
Dr Carpos was a bassoonist and lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music. Dr Carpos had done PhD research into discrimination in the classical music industry. One of her findings were that the term ‘gypos’ was often used for session violinists. She wrote a memo to students, advising them on how to fit in and get a job. The memo included:
“….Be discreet; what’s on tour stays on tour. Become familiar with shared understanding of anecdote, caricature, stereotype and jokes. Google them and look on YouTube, if this is not your culture. For example, you may hear terms like this: Pond life = (string players). Gypos (short for gypsies) = violinists specifically…”.
The memo was circulated to around 800 students, and as a result a letter was sent to the Student Union, accusing Dr Carpos of ‘encouraging the development of a toxic environment in which musicians are complicit in the harassment of and discrimination against colleagues’.
Dr Carpos was dismissed for gross misconduct, that is bringing the academy into disrepute.
Dr Carpos didn’t accept this and lodged a claim of wrongful dismissal and victimisation. Dr Carpos argued that the it couldn’t be true that she was dismissed because of the outpour of hysteria from the student body. She must have been victimised for a prior discrimination complaint.
Dr Carpos won her claims and was awarded over £180,000 in compensation. In relation to wrongful dismissal, the tribunal concluded that the academy’s decision to dismiss her on grounds of gross misconduct was wrong and so she was entitled to her notice period. In relation to victimisation, the tribunal concluded that the dismissal was so obviously trumed-up that it really had to do with her having brought a previous complaint about discrimination.
Curiously, the judge also indicated that if Dr Carpos was eligible to bring an unfair dismissal claim, she may well have succeeded in that, too.
This case serves as a stark reminder that employers shouldn’t be pressured into making knee-jerk reactions because they may inadvertently (1) wrongfully (or unfairly) dismiss; and (2) discriminate against or victimise the employee.
By Zahid Reza
Image used under CC courtesy of Becs @ Catching Sundust