19 Feb 2019

Ibrahim v HCA International Ltd UKEAT/0105/18 

Facts

Mr Ibrahim worked for HCA as a hospital interpreter. He asked a senior manager to investigate rumours circulating among patients and their relatives that he was responsible for some breaches of patient confidentiality. He followed this up with an email stating that he needed to clear his name. The manager referred the matter to HR, and Mr Ibrahim told an HR officer that he wanted to clear his name and restore his reputation. HCA investigated the complaint and rejected it. When he was dismissed, Mr Ibrahim brought an employment tribunal (ET) claim of detriment for having made a protected disclosure (or whistleblowing).

Decision

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the claim. An allegation that someone was being defamed could show breach of a legal obligation, as the legislation was wide enough to include tortious duties such as defamation and breach of statutory duty. However, Mr Ibrahim did not subjectively believe that his disclosure was made in the public interest since his intention was to clear his name. Therefore the disclosure was not protected and Mr Ibrahim's whistleblowing claim failed.

Comment

This decision shows how widely the whistleblowing legislation can be interpreted by the ET but the public interest requirement can cause a claim to fail. It is possible that Mr Ibrahim's claim could have succeeded if the rumours had affected several employees or a whole team. Employers should take note of this decision: if a worker brings a grievance and mentions his reputation or clearing his name, it should be investigated carefully.