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Employment Law Case Update: Kenbata v Westminster City Council

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In the case of Kenbata v Westminster City Council, the claimant, who described himself as Black British African, was contracted to work for the respondent, Westminster City Council. 

A colleague, Mrs D, placed a pot plant on her desk.  This pot plant was described as being ‘larger than might be expected on an office desk’.  The claimant emailed his head of department suggesting the plant was a form of racial segregation.  In response the head of department queried how this could be, to which the claimant responded that the plant restricted the ease with which he could communicate with his colleagues. 

A discussion was then had between the claimant and his line manager about the pot plant complaint, in an open plan office. The claimant brought 29 complaints to the employment tribunal, including direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

The ET concluded that the positioning of the plant and its growth was not an act of direct discrimination or harassment.  They also found that the discussion of the complaint in the open plan office was not an act of harassment.  The ET held that the claimant wanted to use the Equality Act as a weapon to discredit Mrs D. 

The claimant was successful on just one claim; that the open discussion about the complaint was an act of victimisation and should have been carried out confidentially.  However, the ET granted no remedy because it found the claimant had acted in bad faith.  Acting in bad faith can prevent the act being protected under the Equality Act 2010 as victimisation.

The claimant appealed on the point that the respondent had conceded that the pot plant complaint was a protected act in terms of victimisation, therefore accepted to be made in good faith.  This was then inconsistent with the ET’s finding.  The EAT held that the ET’s ruling that the original complaint was not genuine was incorrect and should not have been taken into account.  This point was referred back to the ET.

This case demonstrates the necessity to keep conversations regarding complaints confidential.  If an employee raises a complaint the employer should deal with it in a confidential and sensitive manner and not potentially antagonise the situation.  

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.