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Employment Law Case Update: Hastings v Kings College Hospital

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Hastings, a man of African-Caribbean descent, worked as an IT manager at King’s College Hospital NHS Trust (the Trust)from December 1996. In October 2015, Mr Hastings was dismissed following an incident of racial abuse in the hospital’s car park. Mr Hastings was waiting in a loading bay for a parking space to become free, when he was sworn at by a Caucasian van driver.

Mr Hastings approached the van, where there were three Caucasian males, two of whom were contractors working for the Trust at the time of the incident. One contractor said to Mr Hastings, regarding his skin colour “careful it doesn’t come off”. When Mr Hastings told the men his name, one man reacted with disbelief, stating that he could not have such an “English-sounding name”. When one of the men found out that Mr Hastings was a manager at the hospital, he said: “look! They’ll let anything happen in here”. Mr Hastings called the security office for help during the incident but no support was given and no record of the call was logged by the security office.

Following the incident Mr Hastings was suspended due to an allegation that he had “acted aggressively towards and physically assaulted two other persons”. The Trust considered the CCTV evidence and believed Mr Hastings to be the aggressor, when he had in fact been defending himself. During the investigation Mr Hastings provided evidence of the racial abuse he suffered, however, this was not investigated by the Trust. Following the investigation Mr Hastings was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct.

Mr Hastings brought claims for unfair dismissal and direct race discrimination before the Employment Tribunal (ET). The ET found that Mr Hastings has been subjected to unconscious bias during the investigation finding that his evidence, as a man of African-Caribbean descent, was treated with distrust. The ET stated that the employer had failed to consider that Mr Hastings had been racially abused, and had failed to identify and collect any evidence to support Mr Hastings’ claim that he had been abused. The ET found in Mr Hastings’ favour; he was directly discriminated against on the grounds of his race, and was treated less favourably due to the Trust’s failure to investigate his complaints.

The ET ordered the Trust to pay Mr Hastings a total of £1million by way of compensation, being payment for a basic award, injury to Mr Hastings feelings, damages for personal injury, and compensation for pecuniary loss. The vast majority of the compensation was due to the significant pension loss suffered by Mr Hastings.

This case therefore shows the importance in considering all relevant facts of each case and carrying out a thorough and fair investigation before commencing with the disciplinary proceedings.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.