In a case which highlights the difficulty of proving causation in whistle-blowing cases, a high-flying bank worker who claims that she was disadvantaged after accusing a colleague of spiking her drink during a hotel meeting has had doubt cast on her right to compensation by an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling.
The woman, who held a senior regional position in the bank, had felt very unwell after a colleague bought her a non-alcoholic drink at the hotel before insisting on driving her home. After she went to her GP, a toxicology report revealed traces of cannabis in her system. The police found insufficient evidence to prosecute her colleague but she continued to suspect that he had spiked her drink.
She made three complaints to her bosses, saying she felt bullied by her colleague and had lost sleep at the thought of having to sit in the same room as him. She said that the police were of the opinion that her colleague had ‘most likely committed a serious crime’ against her.
The woman’s claims culminated in a meeting at which her boss told her that she ‘needed to find another job’ in another region ‘because of what she had said’ about her colleague. That reaction triggered proceedings and an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that she had suffered detrimental treatment on grounds of the protected disclosures she had made, contrary to the Employment Rights Act 1996.
On appeal, the bank argued that that it was the woman’s announcement that she ‘could not be in the same room’ as her colleague, rather than her earlier disclosures about him, that had triggered the decision to transfer her. In upholding the appeal, the EAT agreed that the ET had given insufficient reasons for its conclusion that the relevant treatment was causally connected to the disclosures and remitted the case to the ET for reconsideration of that issue.