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Firms facing allegations of discrimination offer settlements

U.K. construction firms that are embroiled in a recent employment scandal that allegedly affected more than 3,000 people are now offering compensation payments through a settlement scheme that some lawyers have estimated to be worth thousands of pounds less than the victims might be entitled to at the end of an action pursued in court. An inquiry into the incident, which involved a hiring "blacklist", is ongoing and being conducted by MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee.

According to reports, a company known as The Consulting Association provided information to construction companies that often erroneously documented a potential employee's political involvement and trouble-making activities. Reports created by the association about potential employees were collated into a blacklist that was used by the constructions firms to prevent people from finding work in the industry. Eight of these companies have now offered quick settlements valued between £4,000 and £20,000 with a cap of £100,000 to those who can prove that they suffered discrimination due to use of the list.

Former owner of hotel wins case for unfair dismissal

A woman whose business was taken over by a hotel chain in 2010 has won an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. The former owner was a minority shareholder with the hotel chain holding the majority of the shares of her hotel. After the takeover, she was employed as a manager in another of the company's properties until her dismissal in 2012. The tribunal ruled that she had suffered unfair dismissal, although they rejected a further claim of sexual harassment.

The judging panel heard that the woman was fired for poor performance in August 2012, but that she was not permitted to represent herself during the disciplinary procedure. As well as this, she was not offered a chance to appeal the hearing's findings, which led to her departure from the business in November of that year. The woman also told the tribunal that she considered her refusal to allow her hotel to be rebranded in line with the rest of the chain as a contributory reason for her dismissal.

Flexible-hour laws extended to apply to all employees

Amendments to existing employment law regarding the right to flexible working hours will now apply to all workers. Previously the law was only applicable to those registered as carers or primary care giver for children under a certain age. The extension follows a declaration from the government that using zero-hours contracts to prevent employees from seeking additional employment opportunities would be banned.

The moves were welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development who interpreted the extension of the right to request flexible working hours as recognition of the importance of such working practices. They noted that there was a strong case for flexibility because it was show to enhance an employee's engagement in his or her work, and it offers an added benefit of attracting and retaining a diverse group of workers.

Tribunal rules against high street giant

An employment tribunal has found that a major electrical appliance company did not appropriately follow the procedure of consultation before instigating mass redundancies. Almost 7,000 employees lost their jobs in 2012 when the high street retailer went into administration. Due to complex legislation surrounding the governance of potential claimants, many of those affected may not receive any compensation despite the ruling.

The tribunal, held in Leeds, ruled that former staff were entitled to up to 90 days wages as they were misinformed during the administrative process and a number were made redundant mere hours after consultation. As the company is no longer trading, under European legislation, the government is responsible for making the payments, although there is only a legal obligation to pay eight weeks of wages rather than three months.

Parents of missing child sue policeman for defamation

A couple whose daughter was abducted while they were on a family holiday in Portugal in 2007 is facing more delays in their legal action against the police officer who was leading the case. The couple is suing the man for defamation, claiming that a book he wrote in 2008 about the case contained false statements about them.

The man fired his legal representation, which delayed proceedings, in a move which the couple described as an attempt to make it more difficult to seek redress in court. The case has now been going for five years, and the couple said that they would not give up and would continue seeking justice, citing that the delays in the case were damaging to their daughter.

Company fights to prevent possible shareholder takeover

Two shareholders of a London-listed company have appealed to the Supreme Court in an effort to lift restrictions on their ability to vote. The litigation arose after attempts to replace the incumbent board were declared by the beleaguered firm's chief executive as a collaborative effort to take over the company "without making a proper offer."

The two investment companies, controlled by men who are widely acknowledged to be powerful corporate raiders, have a collective stake of nearly 40 percent in the oil and gas company. A divided ruling by a court of appeal upheld the limitation on the shareholders' rights to vote as well as the prevention of special resolutions being passed, which, according to the chief executive, has constrained efforts to secure financing or "place stock."

Sikh worker faces discrimination from employer

A worker for a Greenock company has been awarded more than £18,000 by a Scottish employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. His manager and other employee had repeatedly subjected the man to discriminatory behaviour and language before he was fired, according to reports. His discriminal claims of both religion and race were also upheld.

The 39-year-old man was working as a forecourt cleaner when the business was taken over by a Muslim family in 2011. During his employment under the new owners, the man told the panel that he was forced to perform demeaning tasks that humiliated him. The man was ridiculed because he was a Sikh, and one of the man's colleagues made negative comments about the worker's wife, who is a Caucasian British woman. That person's remarks questioned the woman's cleanliness and the man's reasons for staying with her.

Professionals assured of whistle-blower protection

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has found that legal protections in place to protect whistle-blowers also cover those who have partnership status in accounting and law firms. The case concerned a lawyer who claimed that she was dismissed after uncovering and reporting corruption in her firm. She wanted to be able to sue for unfair dismissal with those protections afforded by a whistle-blower status.

The judge stated that, contrary to the law firm's claim that the claimant could not claim whistle-blower status due to her position as a partner, she could indeed be her own boss and yet still be considered a worker. He also said that the rules encompassing whistle-blowers and the protections invoked by such declarations were particularly important for companies doing business in the sensitive legal or financial fields.

Judge involved in defamation claim wins settlement

A deputy district judge who sued a newspaper, claiming that its report of his ruling in a driving offence case had implied that he showed favouritism to the defendant, reached a confidential settlement. The man, who has been in his position for over six years, brought the claim of defamation to the Belfast High Court after the newspaper reported on the sentence received by a barrister who appeared before the judge.

The barrister, a public prosecutor who the judge told the court was unknown to him at the time of his ruling, had been stopped by police for using his mobile phone while driving. This was the fourth time he had been stopped for this reason, and he had nine points on his license when he appeared before the deputy district judge. Any additional points would have imposed an automatic six-month ban on driving.

Workers file claim against food firm

A Suffolk food production factory, which shut its doors last year, is now facing legal action by some of its former employees over pay. Supported by Pay Justice, 57 workers out of the 700 that were employed by the firm had raised a formal grievance with the company, claiming that they were underpaid for their roles.

The grievance is based on the claim that those in production roles, an area dominated by women, were paid roughly £1.50 per hour less than employees in similar roles in dispatch, which was male-dominated. A spokesperson from Pay Justice said that it had been hoped that the company would recognise the discrepancy before the case was taken before a tribunal but noted that negotiations were possible despite the firm's stated intention to dispute the claims.

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