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Refusing to work in protest

An employee who refused to do work after suffering a discriminatory demotion has lost his court case. Mr Rochford was Senior Vice President of a WNS Global Services. He was off work for a year with a back condition (which was a disability). He eventually returned to work on full pay. However, his employer refused to allow him to do his full role or say when he could go back to full duties. Instead they gave him fewer duties, but on the same pay. This demotion related to his disability and therefore amounted to disability discrimination. As a result, he refused to do any work at all and was eventually dismissed for misconduct.

The dismissal was technically found to be unfair because of flaws in the procedure the employer followed. However, it was not discriminatory. The Court of Appeal did not think that the employer was wrong in dismissing Mr Rochford for refusing to work, even when discrimination had stopped him returning to his original role. His refusal to work was misconduct. Whether the actions of the employer were reasonable depends on the facts.  The court thought that the discriminatory demotion was at the less serious end of the scale. The employer’s actions were not deliberate or in bad faith.

Mr Rochford could have resigned in response to the demotion and claimed constructive dismissal. Alternatively, he could have worked ‘under protest’ and brought a tribunal claim for discrimination. However, he was not allowed to refuse to do further work – that was taking things a step too far.