These may be words which Grubhub Chief Executive Officer and
co-founder, Matt Maloney, wished he had had in mind following the
US Presidential election result.
Instead, Mr Maloney created a media backlash after sending an
email to his employees which suggested that any employees who
agreed with Donald Trump's "nationalist,
anti-immigrant and hateful politics" had no place at the
The post-election email, somewhat ironically entitled
'Inclusion and Tolerance in the Workplace',
stated: "I want to affirm to anyone in our team that is
scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone here at
Grubhub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better
life for yourself and your family here in the United States.
If you do not agree with this statement then please reply
to this email with your resignation because you have no place
here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our
team." (my emphasis)
The Chicago-based online food ordering and delivery service not
only faced calls to boycott the company following publicity of this
email, with the hashtag #boycottgrubhub trending on Twitter, but
also faced a reduction in their share price.
The email led to some commentators
suggesting that if they worked at Grubhub and had voted for Trump
they would have felt alienated. In the UK at least, there is a risk
that this email may have breached employment laws.
Was it discriminatory?
The Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) protects employees and workers
from discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. However, it
is unlikely that this protection was in play here. This is because
there is a fairly narrow definition of what amounts to a
'belief.' Previous cases have shown that (with some
exceptions) support of a political party is not in itself a
philosophical belief and therefore not covered by the EqA 2010.
Indeed there have been cases involving employees who were members
of the British National Party (BNP) who have failed to show they
have been discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of
their membership of the party.
However, since 25 June 2013 an employee may be able to argue
that they have been unfairly dismissed if the reason or principal
reason for their dismissal is, or was, related to their political
opinions or affiliation.
This follows a case called Redfearn v United Kingdom in
2012 which was heard at the European Court of Human Rights. In this
case Mr Redfearn was dismissed on the basis that he had stood as a
councillor for the BNP and could not perform his customer-facing
role as the majority of his customers were of Asian origin. Mr
Redfearn did not have the two year period of service required to
bring a claim for unfair dismissal. He therefore argued his less
favourable treatment as a result of membership of a political party
(i.e. the dismissal) was an interference with his rights under
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights of freedom of
association. The Court upheld Mr Redfearn's claims and decided
the UK was in breach by not providing any protection against
dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation. As a
result from 25 June 2013 no minimum period of service is required
to bring a claim for unfair dismissal on the basis of political
opinion or affiliation.
The important point to note is that this change does not create
a new ground for a discrimination claim or that any dismissal on
this basis will be automatically unfair. The fairness of the
dismissal still needs to be judged in the usual way (i.e. whether
there is a fair reason, whether dismissal is within the range of
reasonable responses an employer can have and whether a fair
process has been followed). However, it is at least arguable that
an Employment Tribunal is obliged to find a dismissal unfair if
Article 11 is infringed, since Tribunals are themselves bound to
interpret unfair dismissal laws in a manner compatible with the
European Convention on Human Rights.
If a UK company had sent an email like this to its staff and
dismissed someone as a result of their voting preference (or if
someone resigned and claimed constructive dismissal), it could give
rise to liability for unfair dismissal.
As a result, regardless of your views on the US Presidential (or
any other) election and whatever your opinion of Mr Maloney's
intentions, imposing your political views or rallying employees to
fall in line with your political views may be risky and it is
probably best left outside the workplace.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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