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Mental processes of those influencing the decision-maker must be considered in alleged discrimination

The EAT's decision in Reynolds v (1) CLFIS (UK) LTD (2) The Canada Life Group (UK) LTD (3) Canada Life LTD is of interest in terms of the approach to burden of proof in discriminations claims where a decision is alleged to be discriminatory and the decision maker has been influenced by others. In this case, 77 year old Dr Reynolds was the Chief Medical Officer. Canada Life's General Manager decided to terminate her consultancy agreement. A tribunal decided that the termination had not been because of Dr Reynold's age. In doing so the tribunal focused on the mental processes of the UK General Manager finding that he genuinely believed that Dr Reynolds was not providing the required level of support and that she would not make the necessary changes to enable her to do so.

Dr Reynolds appealed arguing that by focusing just on the mental process of the decision maker, the tribunal had erred because his decision was influenced by the views of other employees. The burden of proof was on the employer and her claim was against the employer as an organisation rather than just the individual decision-maker. The EAT agreed. It is for the employer to prove the decision was not tainted by discrimination and the employer is liable for the discriminatory acts of all its employees, so the tribunal should have considered the mental processes of all those employees who had significantly influenced the alleged discriminatory decision. Therefore, the case would be remitted to a different tribunal. From a practical point of view this case emphasises the needs for employers to keep records of everyone's input into decisions involving selection, promotion, grievance, disciplinary, dismissal, etc. 

 

Content Note

The aim is to provide summary information and comment on the subject areas covered. In particular, where employment tribunal and appellate court cases are reported, the information does not set out full details of all the facts, the legal arguments presented by the parties and the judgments made in every aspect of the case. Click on the links provided to access full details. If no link is provided contact us for further information. Employment law is subject to constant change either by statute or by interpretation by the courts. While every care has been taken in compiling this information, SM&B cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Specialist legal advice must be taken on any legal issues that may arise before embarking upon any formal course of action.

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