Tribunal Finds Senior Teacher Unfairly Dismissed, Discriminated Against for Union Activities

A UK tribunal ruled that a senior teacher, Carmen Wood-Hope, was unfairly sacked and discriminated against due to her trade union activities. The headteacher, Michael Earnshaw, was found to have held "antipathy" towards Wood-Hope and implemented a "punitive" support plan against her.

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Tribunal Finds Senior Teacher Unfairly Dismissed, Discriminated Against for Union Activities

Tribunal Finds Senior Teacher Unfairly Dismissed, Discriminated Against for Union Activities

Carmen Wood-Hope, a senior teacher at The Friars Primary School in Salford, was unfairly sacked and discriminated against for "trade union reasons," a tribunal has found. The tribunal determined that headteacher Michael Earnshaw held "antipathy towards" Wood-Hope and put in place a "punitive" support plan after she became the National Education Union (NEU) workplace representative for teaching staff members in 2017.

Why this matters: This case highlights the importance of protecting workers' rights to engage in trade union activities without fear of retaliation or discrimination. The ruling also underscores the need for employers to ensure fair treatment of employees and prevent discrimination based on union involvement, which can have a chilling effect on workers' ability to advocate for their rights.

Wood-Hope, who was employed at the school from 2014, received an additional pay award in March 2017 for her highly competent performance. However, the tribunal found that Earnshaw's actions after becoming headteacher in September 2018 were motivated by a desire to prevent or deter Wood-Hope from taking part in trade union activities and to penalize her for doing so.

The tribunal heard that in 2019, Wood-Hope raised concerns about changes to classroom observation protocol, which led to an informal warning from Earnshaw. She also supported a teaching assistant union member in a dispute, prompting colleagues to warn her to "watch your back" in relation to Earnshaw. In March 2019, Wood-Hope complained to Earnshaw about a breach of confidentiality, which resulted in a formal investigation into her conduct.

In November 2019, Wood-Hope was placed on a support plan, which the tribunal deemed a punitive measure. She was subsequently sacked in 2020, and her appeal was turned down. The tribunal found that Wood-Hope was automatically unfairly dismissed for trade union reasons and suffered unlawful disability discrimination.

The tribunal judgement stated, "The respondents' main purpose in carrying out such treatment was to prevent or deter the claimant from taking part in the activities of an independent trade union at an appropriate time and also to penalise her for so doing." It also found that Wood-Hope "suffered unlawful disability discrimination by the respondents' unfavourable treatment because of something arising in consequence of disability which was not justified and by the respondents' failure to make reasonable adjustments."

The tribunal concluded that Earnshaw's actions were tainted by personal animosity towards Wood-Hope and that he did not like the union preventing him from exercising free rein. In April 2021, Wood-Hope was rejected for a job due to a negative reference from Earnshaw, further demonstrating the ongoing impact of the unfair treatment she experienced.

Key Takeaways

  • Carmen Wood-Hope, a senior teacher, was unfairly sacked for "trade union reasons" by headteacher Michael Earnshaw.
  • Earnshaw held "antipathy" towards Wood-Hope and created a "punitive" support plan after she became NEU workplace rep.
  • Wood-Hope was automatically unfairly dismissed and suffered unlawful disability discrimination.
  • Earnshaw's actions were motivated by a desire to prevent Wood-Hope from taking part in trade union activities.
  • The ruling highlights the importance of protecting workers' rights to engage in trade union activities without fear of retaliation.