Can the failure to investigate a (groundless) grievance amount to discrimination where the employee has not suffered a detriment?
No, held the EAT in Singh v Cordant Security Ltd.
The Claimant was a security guard. He was of Indian ethnic origin. It was alleged that he smelt of alcohol at work, and he was sent home whilst that was investigated. He then alleged that his supervisor, who was white, had used racially abusive language towards him.
The employment tribunal found that the Claimant had invented these allegations in the face of the disciplinary allegations. However, he had been subjected to less favourable treatment on the grounds of race - his manager's allegations were investigated, his weren't, and his employer could offer no adequate explanation for this. The employment tribunal upheld his claim of race discrimination, granting a declaration, but made no award of compensation. He had suffered no injury to feelings as his allegation was untrue.
The EAT allowed his employer's appeal. A detriment is a necessary element of discrimination. The mere fact that a grievance was bound to fail did not exclude the possibility of there being a detriment (Deer v University of Oxford), but the Claimant could have no sense of grievance or injustice that a false allegation had not been investigated. Whether the failure to investigate could amount to a detriment was a matter for the employment tribunal to determine, but on this employment tribunal's findings, the Claimant could show no detriment.