Devonshires wins employment case against former secretary

City firm Devonshires has successfully fought off a victimisation claim brought by a former secretary in the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

In a judgment handed down yesterday (8 December) the EAT ruled that the December 2008 decision of the London Central Employment Tribunal to dismiss Martin’s claim was correct.

Martin was first employed by Devonshires in early 2006, job-sharing with another employee. When the other employee was dismissed in 2007 Martin was kept on by Devonshires.

However, in January 2008 Martin presented a written grievance to the firm. She said she had brought employment tribunal proceedings for sex discrimination against a firm of solicitors who had previously employed her and claimed this firm had informed Devonshires partners of the proceedings.

Martin also alleged that she had been denied job opportunities and had suffered harassment and victimisation by Devonshires, referring in particular to an incident said to have been witnessed by a number of people. The firm found the incident had, in fact, not occurred.

During a period of sick leave lasting from February 2008 until her dismissal in July 2008 Martin lodged her employment tribunal claim for victimisation. Devonshires sought an opinion from a consultant psychiatrist who diagnosed depression with psychotic episodes.

The diagnosis led Devonshires to drop disciplinary action against Martin, but the firm dismissed her citing a breakdown in the relationship between employer and employee.

Giving the leading judgment, Mr Justice Underhill said the tribunal had been right to decide that Devonshires had dismissed Martin because there was a risk of her disruptive behaviour continuing. She had also not disclosed her mental illness to the firm.

Underhill J also praised the tribunal’s reasoning and dismissed a number of arguments against its ruling brought by Martin’s lawyers.

Devonshires head of employment Amanda Harvey said the judgment spoke for itself. “It’s been a very difficult case in very difficult circumstances and we wish Mrs Martin well,” said Harvey.

Devonshires instructed Outer Temple Chambers’ Benjimin Burgher to defend against the claims.

Martin was represented by the London Discrimination Unit, instructing 1 Mitre Court Buildings’ David Stephenson.