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Judgment clarifies protection for whistle blowers against colleagues

A judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal on Friday 19th October 2018 has ruled an employee can bring a claim against an individual co-worker for subjecting him or her to dismissal on the grounds of whistle blowing.

Posted on 22 October 2018

The initial case was brought by Alexander Osipov against International Petroleum Limited (IPL) and two of its non-executive directors Frank Timis and Anthony Sage. Mr Osipov worked for IPL from 2011 and was appointed CEO in June 2014. He was dismissed in October 2014.
Mr Osipov brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal and four counts of victimisation discrimination including whistleblowing. His case was upheld by the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal but was appealed by IPL to the Court of Appeal.
Charity and legal advice centre Protect (formerly Public Concern at Work) intervened in the appeal due to its potential impact on all whistle blowers.
The Court of Appeal judgment confirms that if someone makes the decision to dismiss an employee, then they are liable for potential legal action, if the decision was on the ground of whistleblowing.  The employee can seek to recover all losses flowing from that decision. 
Protect's Head of Advice and Advocacy, Bob Matheson, said: 

"This ruling highlights the personal accountability of individuals who decide to dismiss whistle blowers. The court had to grapple with a dated framework of protection for whistle blowers that is at times contradictory and confusing. We are delighted that with the assistance of Protect's intervention, the decision came down on the side of whistle blowers - clarifying that they are able to sue for all their losses whether they are claiming against a co-worker or employer. This case emphasises once again that the law is in need of reform."
Kiran Daurka, employment partner at Leigh Day who represented Protect, said:

“The Court of Appeal’s ruling is an important and welcome clarification of the law which promotes the individual’s own responsibility in ensuring that they do not take unlawful steps against co-workers who have blown the whistle.  This decision ensures that individuals involved in the dismissal of a whistle blower, because of making protected disclosures, can be held to account and be required to pay out damages.  The case highlights some of the issues with the statutory language which creates uncertainties despite the underlying purpose of the legislation to provide wide protections for whistle blowers to encourage them to speak out.”