In the case of Hope v British Medical Association, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found the British Medical Association (BMA) had acted reasonably when they summarily dismissed Mr Hope who had repeatedly brought “frivolous and vexatious” grievances which he then refused to progress to a formal stage, despite a reasonable management instruction to do so.
The Claimant, Mr Hope, was a senior policy adviser at the BMA. After being accused of being unprofessional and dismissive by a colleague, the Claimant brought a grievance asking the BMA to confirm it did not stand by this view. The BMA offered the Claimant a meeting with the colleague to discuss the issue but the Claimant refused to meet with him. Although the grievance was partially upheld on appeal, the BMA expressed disappointment that the Claimant had declined to meet with his colleague and considered he had unreasonably wasted management time in dealing with the grievance.
Following the grievance, the Claimant complained that he was not being invited to meetings by senior management and said he believed the reason was due to him having raised a grievance. He was asked if he wished to raise a formal grievance but he declined to do so, instead requesting that he retain the right to do so later. The BMA told the Claimant that if he wished to raise a grievance he should do so by a certain date. The Claimant then brought a further grievance that this deadline was arbitrary. He also raised a further grievance as he was not invited to another meeting.
The BMA again invited the Claimant to meet informally to discuss the complaint and he declined to do so. The BMA informed him that, if he continued to use the grievance process in this way, it may be considered to be a disciplinary issue. The Claimant took issue with this and raised a further grievance regarding the threat of disciplinary action.
The BMA invited the Claimant to a formal grievance meeting but the Claimant objected to the person appointed to deal with the grievance and refused to attend, despite being told that the request to do so was a reasonable management instruction. The grievance meeting took place in his absence and the BMA found that the Claimant’s repeated raising of grievances without concluding them or withdrawing them was an abuse of process. His grievances were dismissed.
The BMA invited the Claimant to a disciplinary hearing due to his repeatedly bringing frivolous and vexatious grievances which he then did not pursue and failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction to attend the grievance meeting. The Claimant was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.
The Employment Tribunal held the decision to dismiss was fair. It found the BMA had carried out a reasonable investigation and disciplinary procedure and that it was reasonable for the BMA to have found the Claimant’s behaviour to be vexatious or unreasonable.
On appeal, the EAT agreed and found that the Employment Tribunal had been entitled to find the BMA had acted reasonably in treating the Claimant’s conduct as a sufficient reason to dismiss.
The fact it was found to be fair to dismiss an employee who raised a litany of grievances and did not follow through with the process will no doubt be welcome news to employers. However, a key factor in this case was the Claimant’s refusal to pursue the grievances raised which ultimately eroded the relationship of trust and confidence between the Claimant and the BMA. Employers should therefore take advice before following the approach in this case, particularly where a grievance raised includes allegations of discrimination, where a decision to dismiss could potentially amount to victimisation.