Tribunal win for man whose former employer provided discriminatory references

A man who was discriminated against by a former employer has won a tribunal case against them after comments they made to potential job opportunity regarding his past absences. This case is a reminder to employers that they can still be guilty of discrimination even on past employees.

Mr P Mefful took two periods off of work in 2009, when he and his partner suffered the loss of their baby and in 2012 for severe shoulder pain and hearing loss in one ear. He claimed he suffered victimisation and disability discrimination after his former employer, Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth, gave him a reference that lost him a job offer.

After being made redundant by the company, Mefful brought a separate case arguing that his dismissal was unfair and he was discriminated against because of his disability. Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth has since conceded that the dismissal was unfair but the disability discrimination claim is ongoing.

After a three years of unemployment, Mefful was offered a job in 2015 and his former employer was approached for a reference. However, after receiving the reference, the job offer was withdrawn. In the reference, Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth noted it would not re-employ Mefful, with its then-chief executive, Ms James, 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”, and 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. Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth 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.”

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