EOC, Russell Jones win fair pay sex bias appeal

Russell Jones & Walker has won a crucial employment appeal on behalf of a woman fighting for equal pay and treatment at work.

Partner Julie Morris acted for accountant Amanda Sharp in the case brought against financial services company Caledonia Group Services. Sharp sued the company in 2002, alleging that she was receiving unequal benefits compared with male colleagues doing work of equal value.

Earlier this month the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) backed Sharp’s claim by ruling that a company must provide objective reasons for paying men and women differently, in a decision that tests previous case law more rigorously than ever before.

The employment tribunal dismissed Sharp’s case in September 2004 after Caledonia defended itself by arguing that historical considerations accounted for the difference in pay. The tribunal found that this constituted a genuine material factor unrelated to the fact that Sharp was female.

Sharp’s appeal to the EAT was funded by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), with the aim of establishing that the historical considerations defence had to be tested objectively, not subjectively. The EAT’s ruling follows a European test case handed down last year, Brunnhofer v Bank der Österreischischen Postparkasse.

Morris instructed Cloisters Chambers’ head Robin Allen QC. Caledonia was represented by Fox Williams partner Anne Nicholson, instructing Suzanne McKie of Devereux Chambers.