Jeff Malcolm is a Jamaican national and was an employee of Super Dealz supermarket from 2012 until recently. He was employed in the fresh food section of the chain’s Shrewsbury Street branch. When he started work as a fresh-faced graduate, his manager was Dewey Black. Jeff had a very good relationship with Dewey, who was always more than satisfied with the quality of Jeff’s work. Jeff was given additional responsibilities, including being promoted to the position of supervisor over some employees working in the fresh food section.
However, in January 2019, Dewey was transferred to another branch of the supermarket chain, and he was replaced by Meryl Priestly. Almost immediately, Jeff began to have difficulties under Meryl’s management. She repeatedly reprimanded Jeff for chatting on the aisles, even though other staff would be continuously and more loudly chatting and joking while stocking shelves. On various occasions throughout 2019, Meryl yelled at Jeff to ‘shut up and do some work’ in front of the staff he was supervising and in front of the customers. Jeff felt humiliated and was close to tears at such a public undermining. Since June 2019, Jeff has been rostered to work three out of every four Sundays. When Dewey was manager, Jeff tended to only work one in four Sundays. He feels Meryl is doing this deliberately to upset him, as she knows that he has Reggae practice on Sundays.
Jeff felt personally victimised by Meryl and suspected that her behaviour towards him was because of his nationality. All of the other employees in the fresh food section of the shop are Irish nationals. Jeff began to dread coming to work and on occasion experienced what he thought were panic attacks in the mornings at the thought of how Meryl might treat him that day.
By letter dated 15 September 2019, Jeff wrote to the human resources manager, Amanda Smith, stating that he felt he was being bullied and harassed by Meryl and seeking his employer’s assistance. In his letter, he stated that he felt he would have no choice but to quit his job if Meryl’s behaviour towards him was not addressed. He said that after 7 years’ loyal service with Super Dealz, he would hate to go because of the xenophobic attitude of one person, but he could no longer bear Meryl’s undermining of him. Jeff received no response to his letter. He was aware that there was a formal grievance procedure contained in his employee handbook, but he didn’t use it because he felt there was no point when Super Dealz hadn’t even answered his letter.
On 20 December 2019, Meryl approached Jeff as he was stacking crates of vegetables and shouted loudly, “tie away those disgusting dreadlocks Jeff, no respectable Irishman wants to see those near his vegetables”. It is company policy that employees must wear hairnets when working on the deli counters, but there is no requirement that they tie up their hair while working in the vegetable section. Jeff was extremely upset by this incident and hoped that he would have a response from senior management soon.
In February 2020, Jeff felt he could no longer take Meryl’s treatment and he went on sick leave for a week. He was certified by his doctor as unfit for work due to work-related stress. His sick leave was extended for another 2 weeks, again on the basis of workplace stress. On 7 March 2020, Jeff wrote to the HR manager handing in his notice “due to workplace bullying” with immediate effect. On 8 March 2020, Amanda Smith replied to Jeff accepting his resignation without enquiring into the reasons for his resignation or asking about his welfare.
Jeff feels he has been very badly treated by Super Dealz. Advise Jeff as to:
(a) whether he has a cause of action for harassment under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, his likely prospects of success if he was to institute proceedings, where such a claim can be made, and whether there are any defences Super Dealz could rely on in this regard;
(b) whether Jeff has a cause of action for personal injuries arising from workplace bullying and/or stress, his likely prospects of success if he was to institute proceedings, and where such a claim can be made;
(c) whether he has a cause of action for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977-2015, his likely prospects of success if he was to institute proceedings, and where such a claim can be made.
You should refer to relevant statutory provisions, case law and previous decision of employment law decision-making bodies to back up the points made in your answer. Please provide full citations for all authorities relied upon. Remember to apply the legal principles you identify to the particular facts of Jeff’s case.
Maximum word count: 2,500 words. Please also include a bibliography of authorities cited. This is not included in the word count.
Accurate, comprehensive and clear explanation of the legal issues to be resolved;
Principles, rules and concepts clearly presented and properly supported by legal sources;
Evidence of reading beyond the core material.
Application of the law to the facts presented and appropriate and well-reasoned conclusion.
|Structurally coherent approach adopted.
Clear and consistent presentation of argument.
Introduction to clearly lay out approach to be adopted.
|Language, style and presentation
|Appropriate academic style throughout.
Clear and appropriate use of paragraphing, spelling, grammar and formatting.
Clear presentation of material.
Well-presented and organised document.
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