Age Discrimination and Dismissal

In the case of CLFIS (UK) Ltd v Reynolds, the Court of Appeal considered the question: Is it discriminatory to dismiss after relying upon the reports of colleagues motivated by discrimination? The Court of Appeal held, no. The Claimant in this case, lost her claim for age discrimination based upon a decision to terminate her services as a consultant as, the Court of Appeal decided that the individual employee carrying out the dismissal must, himself, be motivated by age discrimination in order for unlawful discrimination to be established.

The dismissal followed various concerns that the General Manager had with Reynolds’ performance. Reynolds worked from home in Wales but did not use e-mail and was unwilling to attend more face-to-face meetings at the company’s Bristol office; her work rate was slow; and she did not provide her advice in writing, preferring to dictate it over the telephone. The General Manager’s attention was drawn to the various perceived problems with Reynolds’ performance by a presentation given by the Managing Director (prepared with the assistance of another manager). Reynolds claimed that her claim for discrimination should have succeeded because the dismissing office had relied on a report by colleagues alleged to be motivated by discrimination.

The decision to terminate R’s contract was taken by the General Manager alone, based upon his understanding that Reynolds was not providing the service required by CLFIS (UK) Ltd. In its view, CLFIS (UK) Ltd was able to demonstrate a non-discriminatory explanation for its decision, namely that it was dissatisfied with R’s performance and genuinely did not believe that she was capable of change. This belief was based upon the General Manager’s own knowledge of Reynold’s work and personal circumstances, gained over many years.

The main point arising from this case is that a person’s motivation could not render the act in question discriminatory. The correct approach in a ‘tainted information’ case is to treat the conduct of the person supplying the allegedly discriminatory information as a separate act from which loss can flow, provided it is not too remote.

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