Charity whistleblowers lose Employment Tribunal claim

MoJTwo former charity workers have lost their Employment Tribunal whistleblowing claim after they claimed that they had been fired from their jobs for raising concerns about the financial viability of the charity.

Mr James Derieg and Mr Tony Niester worked for Threshold Housing Link until their dismissal last year. The charity workers claimed that they had submitted a number of grievances related to the financial position of the charity over previous years and that they had concerns about the governance, financial affairs and conflicts of interest in the charity and that the charity had failed to address these. The two workers were subsequently dismissed for “gross misconduct” after speaking publicly to a local newspaper about what they believed were failures in the charity’s governance, with managers at the charity finding that they had fundamentally breached the charity’s communications policy. The two men subsequently made a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and detriment due to protected disclosures to the Employment Tribunal.

The Employment Tribunal was held in August 2013, with the Tribunal hearing evidence from Mr Derieg, Mr Niester and witnesses for Threshold Housing Link. The Tribunal heard evidence from Mr David Price, a trustee for the charity, that it had come to the charity’s attention last year that the two workers had made an unauthorized statement to the media and that they were disciplined because of this. Mr Niester and Mr Derieg contended, however, that they had been disciplined because they had made what they believed were protected disclosures to the charity regarding how the charity was being run.

The Employment Tribunal found in Threshold Housing Link’s favour in the whistleblowing claim, finding that the charity’s response in dismissing the workers because of the breach of the communications policy was not unfair and that the workers hadn’t demonstrated that their dismissal was because they had made the protected disclosures.