Bad references could cost firms

Updated: 

young lady being laid off...

Employers who unfairly give former employees bad references could face damages claims in the wake of a ruling by senior judges.

The Court of Appeal has concluded that equality legislation catered for "post-employment victimisation".

Three appeal judges ruled in favour of car body repairer who had worked in a car sales and repair business in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Pat Jessemey said his former boss at Rowstock Ltd gave him a bad reference because he had complained about age discrimination and launched unfair dismissal proceedings.

An employment tribunal concluded that the bad reference was given because Mr Jessemey pursued discrimination proceedings.

But it ruled that "post-employment victimisation" was not unlawful under the 2010 Equality Act and that ruling was upheld by an employment appeal tribunal.

The Court of Appeal disagreed and allowed an appeal by Mr Jessemey.

Judges said an employment tribunal should assess how much compensation Mr Jessemey should get.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which backed Mr Jessemey, welcomed the appeal court ruling and said it would have a wide application.

Commission legal director Wendy Hewitt said: "We supported this case in order to clarify an important principle of law, namely that the Equality Act 2010 should be read as prohibiting victimisation which happens after someone has left their job and is then treated unfavourably because they have made allegations of discrimination.

"The fact that this claim has been successful means that it is clear that this protection also applies to former relationships in education, services, public functions and associations."

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