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Museum Curator Whistleblower Compensation Hopes Boosted

Whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing on the part of their employers benefit from the full protection of the law. In one case which makes that point, a museum curator who said that he was dismissed after accusing his bosses of unethical behaviour has had his hopes of compensation boosted by a tribunal.

The man’s local authority employer argued that his probationary contract was not renewed due to concerns about his performance. However, he said that what really lay behind his dismissal were his criticisms of the museum’s management and the way in which it had applied for funding from Arts Council England.

He claimed, amongst other things, that the museum had prioritised the achievement of funding over its stated aims. It was, he alleged, seeking a significant public grant for the improvement of its services to disadvantaged, marginalised and excluded communities in the knowledge that such aims would not be achieved. His claim that his dismissal was automatically unfair within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996 was, however, rejected by an Employment Tribunal (ET).

In upholding his challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET had failed to grapple with certain central issues in the case. It had not given adequate reasons for its finding that the man’s complaints related to differences of opinion in respect of best practice rather than alleged breaches of legal obligations by the employer.

The ET had not adequately explained its conclusion that the man could have had no reasonable belief that such breaches had occurred. It had also failed to address his claim that the employer had concealed information that would have revealed its failure to act with integrity. The EAT directed a full reconsideration of the man’s claim by a different ET.