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Injury to Feelings

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[Thanks to Lionel Stride of Temple Garden Chambers for providing this case summary]

The EAT (Underhill P) has handed down its decision in Taylor v XLN Telecom, which is authority for the proposition that, in a discrimination claim, a claimant is entitled to recover for any injury to feelings and/or personal injury attributable to the discriminatory act (such as a racially-motivated dismissal) without having to prove that the injury resulted from actual knowledge of the discrimination. The decision is likely to have a significant impact on the assessment of injury to feelings and health in indirect discrimination cases.

In this case, the Tribunal had found that the dismissal of the Claimant, who is black, had been unfair and constituted unlawful (racially-motivated) victimisation. However, they had declined to make an award of injury to feelings or psychiatric injury because his distress arose from the manner of his dismissal rather than any knowledge of the discrimination that he had suffered. The Tribunal therefore found that they were bound by the observation of Lawton LJ in Skyrail Oceanic Ltd v Coleman [1981] ICR 864 that "any injury to feelings must result from the knowledge that it was an act of discrimination which brought about a dismissal..."

On appeal, the EAT held that the observations of Lawton LJ had been misunderstood: there was no requirement to prove knowledge of the act of discrimination whether the claim was for injury to feelings or to health. The Claimant could therefore recover damages for any proven psychiatric injury (or injury to feelings) irrespective of what he knew or did not know about the motivation of his employer's decision to dismiss. The claim has now been remitted to the Tribunal to determine the appropriate level of any such award.