When deciding a claim, tribunals are required to provide adequate reasons for their determination. In Tchapdeu v Unipart Group Ltd, the EAT held that the tribunal had explained its reasons more than adequately, particularly in respect of the comparators identified by the claimant whose circumstances were “materially different” from his own, contrary to the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Tchapdeu started working for Unipart Group Ltd on its Nuneaton site in October 2009. In November 2014, he asked to work flexibly because his wife needed help with childcare. The request was finally approved in October 2015 after Mr Tchapdeu raised a number of grievances.
In June 2016, he was offered a new role at a different site but on condition that he worked full time. He reluctantly agreed and started working at Magna Park on a full-time basis on 25 July. On 29 July and again on 4 August, he asked if he could work flexibly but these requests were turned down. He raised a grievance a few days later, complaining of less favourable treatment on grounds of race and national origin, but this was rejected, as was his appeal.
He lodged tribunal proceedings alleging race discrimination (among other things) in February 2017, whilst continuing to make requests to work part-time. The company wrote to him at the end of May to inform him that they would not hear any further grievances relating to flexible working requests.
With regard to his claim of direct race discrimination, the tribunal held that Mr Tchapdeu’s request for flexible working was rejected not because of his race but because everyone transferring from Nuneaton to Magna Park had to work full time. He could not rely on the comparators he had identified as they were all part timers who already worked at Magna Park, as opposed to having transferred over. As such, Mr Tchapdeu had not been singled out in any way nor had he been subjected to any different treatment from anyone else who had agreed to transfer.
With regard to his allegation of indirect race discrimination, the tribunal held that there was no provision, criterion or practice of rejecting his grievances. It considered that these had all been considered properly in line with the appropriate policy. The decision to refuse further grievances arose out of business need, not racism.
The tribunal also found that the company’s witnesses were more credible than those of Mr Tchapdeu as their testimony was consistent with the documentation before the tribunal. It also found Mr Tchapdeu’s evidence to be unreliable as he had persistently changed his case, as well as the protected characteristic that he was relying on to support his claims.
He appealed, mainly on the basis that the tribunal had not provided adequate reasons for its decision.
Dismissing the appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal was right to conclude that the comparators identified by Mr Tchapdeu were not appropriate as their circumstances were “materially different” from his, contrary to section 23 of the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal had also adequately explained that finding.
In addition, the EAT held that the tribunal was entitled to decide that the witnesses put forward by the company were more credible than those put forward by Mr Tchapdeu. It had done so by assessing their evidence with contemporaneous documentation which it was perfectly entitled to do. The fact that Mr Tchapdeu had not challenged the veracity of any of the key documents indicated that he did not have a credible basis on which to do so.
Finally, the EAT held that the grievance investigation was thorough and was also adequately explained by the tribunal.