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The largest sex discrimination claim against a law firm in modern times – brought by two female ex-partners of former City firm Sinclair Roche & Temperley – has been ordered back to the Employment Tribunal for review.
The extraordinary decision by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), based on failures by the original tribunal to consider adequately the defendants’ evidence, means claimants Sian Heard and Sian Fellows will have to go over many of the arguments again before the same tribunal.
In December 2003, the tribunal ruled in favour of the claimants, awarding the pair a combined £7m, which was subsequently reduced to £900,000 in April this year.
The tribunal ruled that Heard and Fellows had been discriminated against, and as a result neither entered Sinclair Roche’s senior equity partnership in 2000, nor remained with the firm when it merged with Stephenson Harwood, where they would have become fixed-share salaried partners.
However, last Wednesday (30 June) Mr Justice Michael Burton, the president of the EAT, ordered the tribunal to look again at the case because of its original failure to consider adequately all the facts. This included hearing a 90-minute oral submission by Ian Gatt QC, Sinclair Roche’s barrister, without having read the senior counsel’s related 97-page written submission.
The fresh trial will hear new evidence and will look again at certain arguments presented by Gatt, of Littleton Chambers, at the original hearing.
David Bean QC, the former bar chairman and a tenant at Matrix Chambers, was brought in to lead Old Square Chambers barrister Jennifer Eady on behalf of Fellows and Heard at last week’s EAT hearing.
Heard said: “The EAT has ordered a carefully controlled remission of some issues to the same employment tribunal.”
Judge Burton’s full judgment will be published in several weeks.