Tribunal Case A Reminder To Employers on Giving References
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Employers are being urged to take extra care with their references, after a tribunal ruled that a man had been discriminated against after his ex-employer made comments linked to his sickness absence in a reference. Mr P Meﬀul claimed he suﬀered victimisation and disability discrimination after his former employer, Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth (CAM&L), where he worked from 2004 until he was made redundant in 2012, gave him a reference that lost him a job oﬀer.
During the course of his employment, Meﬀul had two lengthy periods of absence – one after he and his partner lost a baby, and a further stint for shoulder pain and hearing loss in his right ear. After being made redundant, Meﬀul brought a separate case, arguing that his dismissal was unfair and he was discriminated against because of his disability. CAM&L has since conceded, but the disability discrimination claim is ongoing. After a three-year period of unemployment, Meﬀul was oﬀered a job in 2015 and his former employer was approached for a reference. Shortly after receiving the reference, the job oﬀer was withdrawn. In the reference, CAM&L noted it would not re-employ Meﬀul, with the CEO later explaining at tribunal that this comment was linked to his sickness absence. However, the tribunal found that the employer’s records on Meﬀul’s absences were overestimated to a “substantial degree”, therefore his potential employer had been provided with inaccurate ﬁgures.
Meﬀul also provided the tribunal with evidence that suggested he had performed well in his role, which was not challenged during cross-examination.
CAM&L contended that, even though the reference did comment on Meﬀul’s sickness absence, it was “true, accurate and fair” and did not arise from discrimination or the earlier tribunal he had brought. However, the tribunal ruled that the organisation had “failed to provide any favourable information about [Meﬀul] personally or about his performance… This amounted to a detriment and it created what appeared to be an entirely false and misleading impression of his successful eight-year career.”
Message for Employers: The provision of references has always been a contentious matter. Employers often freeze in fear of possible repercussions from giving a reference for an ex-employee. This case is a stark reminder that employers can still be found liable after employment has ceased and therefore how important it is to take care when completing this task. Our recommendation is that you adopt of a blanket policy of confirming dates of employment and the role held only. If in doubt, contact us at [email protected] or call us on 01386 751 740