In Grabe v United Reformed Church, the Claimant had been accepted to train for ministry within the Respondent Church. At an early stage, the relationship entered into difficulties; ultimately, resulting in the removal of her student status and termination of the training arrangement. The Claimant issued multiple claims, including: unfair dismissal, whistleblower detriment, automatic unfair dismissal and discrimination, relying upon the protected characteristics of race, actual or perceived disability, sexual orientation and religious belief. The proceedings commenced in 2012. However, due to a variety of health related concerns, there were extensive delays. The Claimant continued to report difficulties up to the final hearing.
Following a 5 week hearing and evidence from 20 witnesses on behalf of the Respondent, all claims were dismissed.
At a time when the profession and the judiciary have been alerted to the need to facilitate participation by vulnerable parties and witnesses, the judgment serves as a useful point of reference regarding the forms and limits of judicial pragmatism and accommodation.
The judgment also demonstrates the care with which a Tribunal is required to engage with the protected characteristic of disability at the time of the acts complained of; resisting the potential for the formulation of judgments based on the Claimant's presentation at the time of the Tribunal hearing. The Tribunal also took the unusual step of making a number of preliminary observations concerning the Claimant's credibility generally. In doing so, it observed:
"The sad reality of the situation is that the claimant's case is founded on a perception and understanding of events that is so often at variance to the perception and understanding of everyone else we have heard from..."
Ed Morgan QC appeared for the Respondent.