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26th July 2023

A Desire To Go Clubbing Is Not Discriminatory

people dancing in nightclub

Does a disagreement over a venue for a work Christmas party amount to discriminatory conduct? No held the tribunal in the recent case of Mrs C Palladino v Reed in Partnership Ltd.

In the case, the Claimant (Mrs C Palladino) worked for the Respondent (Reed in Partnership Ltd) as an HR advisor. At the time in question, the Claimant was aged 45 and was the second eldest at the Respondents, with the remaining staff being in their 20s.

In 2021, when organising a work Christmas party, the Claimant suggested the venue, Willow Farm Village, which is mainly for children and families, but could also be available during the evenings for events such as a Christmas party. Her colleagues stated that they would prefer a venue which was not catered for families but was “more entertaining, and possibly in London.” The Claimant stated that her colleagues had been negative about her suggestion. The Claimant continuously used the word ‘clubbing’ to describe their wishes for the Christmas party.

There were also a number of text messages and emails disclosed which all related to answering the question of where the Christmas party should be held. Each colleague was asked to put forward a venue to be selected and express a preference and choice for their preferred venue. A venue was selected, and the Claimant did not attend the dinner.

The Claimant subsequently brought claims of direct discrimination, harassment, victimisation and constructive unfair dismissal. The tribunal stated, ‘much of the correspondence was the normal good-humoured correspondence on this topic, which is to be expected.’

At a preliminary hearing, the tribunal stated that the dispute was ‘a minor banal everyday issue in the workplace.’ The tribunal found that the Claimant’s colleagues favoured going into London and the Claimant did not, to which the tribunal stated, ‘I do not accept that the simple act of being disagreed with constitutes a detriment’.

The tribunal dismissed her claims of direct discrimination and harassment. However, her claims of victimisation and constructive unfair dismissal continue. The reason for this is that there are incidents over the use of a training room and allegations that her colleague deliberately brought in smelly food in retaliation to her complaint of discrimination.

This case illustrates the importance of establishing a genuine detriment as the result of a protected characteristic and not simply being disagreed with. However, in saying this, the outcome in relation to the Claimant’s claims for victimisation and constructive unfair dismissal is yet to be determined.

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