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Employment tribunal rejects Knowledge of London taxi examiner’s claim against TfL for unfair dismissal

The London Central Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim of former Knowledge of London examiner Mr Harvey for constructive unfair dismissal against Transport for London (TfL).

Mr Harvey had alleged unfair treatment linked to a supposed unethical scoring quota in the Knowledge of London (KoL) exams, which he was instructed to enforce as an examiner.

The case, presided over by Employment Judge J. Galbraith-Marten, concluded that Mr Harvey's claims were not substantiated enough to warrant a ruling in his favour. Initially, Mr Harvey pursued two claims—constructive unfair dismissal and automatic unfair dismissal based on alleged protected disclosures. However, he later withdrew the latter claim.

Central to the dispute was Mr Harvey's objection to a scoring expectation ranging from 30 to 70 percent, which he interpreted as a mandatory quota. This became a pivotal issue during the disciplinary hearings conducted by TfL. Despite Mr Harvey's arguments and a subsequent request for specific disclosure concerning internal legal advice, TfL maintained that this range was merely an "expectation", not an enforceable instruction, as confirmed during the tribunal proceedings.

According to tribunal papers, Mr Harvey was the highest scoring examiner with an annual average of 85% in 2017, significantly above the department's average of 51%. Following concerns from knowledge schools about inconsistent scoring among examiners, Ms Chennells, the Knowledge of London (KoL) Manager at TfL, initiated reviews in early 2018. She encouraged all examiners to aim for scores within the 30-70% range to maintain the integrity and consistency of the KoL exams.

Ms Chennells addressed both high and low scorers, including two examiners whose scores were notably below the desired range, successfully guiding them to improve their scoring to 34% in 2018. Despite these efforts, the claimant's scores remained high, attributed in part to his frequent use of repeat questions, which allowed candidates to rehearse answers. This issue was discussed during several performance reviews, where Ms Chennells emphasised the need for varied questioning to uphold the KoL's standards. Throughout 2018 to 2021, Ms Chennells continued to monitor and provide feedback on the claimant's scoring practices. Although there was some improvement, the claimant's scores often reverted to higher averages once monitoring decreased.

After a comprehensive review of the facts and submissions from both parties, the tribunal ruled that there was no breach of the implied term of mutual confidence and trust by TfL that would justify Mr Harvey's claims of constructive dismissal. As such, the tribunal dismissed the claim, highlighting that the disciplinary process, although stringent, did not reach the threshold of unfair treatment under the circumstances described.

The Judge concluded that Ms Chennells, Manager of the Knowledge of London (KoL) exams, did not instruct examiners to only score within a 30-70% range, considering such a directive unreasonable. In her role to ensure fairness, transparency, and consistency, she implemented a paper audit system to monitor scoring patterns after concerns were raised by knowledge schools in early 2018 about the varying scores from her examiners.

Ms Chennells expected scores to fall within the 30-70% range, reflecting the department's average of 51%, and worked with examiners, including the claimant, whose scores deviated from this norm. Despite initial compliance, the claimant’s scores reverted back post Ms Chennells’ maternity leave. Efforts to realign the claimant with the expected scoring guidelines were unsuccessful.

The Judge concluded: “The claimant had convinced himself the only way he could achieve an average rolling score of between 30-70% was by doctoring his scores and deliberately failing 30% of candidates and in his mind that was unethical.”

The tribunal found that Ms Chennells’ scoring expectations from 2018 onwards were a reasonable management request and not an unethical quota, aligning with the KoL guidelines. It was concluded that Ms Chennells had attempted multiple interventions to address the claimant's scoring discrepancies, which eventually led to the initiation of a disciplinary process in May 2022 after other attempts had failed.

In judgment papers, Employment Judge J. Galbraith-Marten, concluded: “In the circumstances, the claimant’s claim for constructive unfair dismissal is not well founded and is dismissed.”


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