Employees who bring a claim in the employment tribunal must observe strict rules or risk having their cases thrown out, as a recent decision from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) illustrates. It is particularly important to understand what you can and cannot do while giving evidence as the consequences of getting it wrong can be very severe.
Ms Chidzoy, a BBC reporter, brought whistleblowing and sex discrimination claims against her employer to tribunal. However, during a break at the tribunal, she was overheard discussing the case with a journalist. She was still under oath at the time, and had been given multiple warnings by the tribunal not to discuss her evidence with any third party. The tribunal found that Ms Chidzoy’s conduct was unreasonable and, because it was no longer possible to conduct a fair trial, struck out her claims.
Ms Chidzoy then appealed, arguing that the tribunal’s decision interfered with her freedom of expression rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the tribunal should have heard evidence of her discussions with the journalist before dismissing her claims.
In the case of Chidzoy v British Broadcasting Corporation, the EAT dismissed those arguments and agreed with the tribunal’s decision that Ms Chidzoy’s conduct had been unreasonable.
The EAT found that the tribunal had acted fairly. Not only had Ms Chidzoy been given clear instructions not to discuss evidence during breaks, she failed to tell the tribunal of the discussion, and gave differing versions of events. The tribunal was therefore justified in concluding that there was an irreparable loss of trust and that it was no longer possible to conduct a fair trial. What’s more, the tribunal had also considered whether the case could be referred to a different tribunal, but concluded that the lack of trust and reliability would still be a problem.
If you are appearing in a tribunal case, it’s vital you do not discuss the case with any third party while under oath as this could result in your claim (or defence) being thrown out. The same goes for discussing the case on social media, too.