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In the case of Mrs M Richards v Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust the Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant could not bring a second discrimination claim against her previous employer as the settlement agreement she had signed precluded her from doing so.

The facts in Mrs M Richards v Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust

Mrs Richards commenced employment with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (“the Trust”) as a Counsellor in July 2006, working at Victoria Hospital in Swindon. Mrs Richards had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and there was medical evidence to support such a diagnosis.

In 2007 Mrs Richards issued an Employment Tribunal claim in which she raised complaints of constructive unfair dismissal and (after an amendment of claim) disability discrimination.

On 4 June 2007 COT3 settlement agreement terms were agreed, under which the sum of £12,000 was to be paid by the Trust and Mrs Richards was to withdraw her claim. The COT3 settlement agreement also specified that the settlement covered “all and any claims which the Claimant has or may have against the Respondent”, including claims under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Disability Discrimination Act; the settlement agreement also stated that it applied to, but was not limited to, those claims which had been brought within the proceedings. The claim was then withdrawn but not formally dismissed by the Employment Tribunal. At the time of the settlement agreement Mrs Richards was represented by a solicitor.

Soon after the claim was withdrawn (but not dismissed) Mrs Richards wrote to the Employment Tribunal to complain that she had made a mistake when the agreement was finalized. On 29 December 2007 Mrs Richards wrote to the Tribunal to complain that she believed that she had been tricked into the agreement and/or that she had been coerced in signing it; she alleged that she had not had capacity at the time to enter into the agreement. A preliminary hearing was listed to determine Mrs Richards’ application to challenge the validity of the settlement agreement.

Mrs Richards did not attend the preliminary hearing listed and her application was dismissed by way of a reasoned Judgment dated 28 May 2009 – the Employment Judge found that Mrs Richards had been advised and represented by a solicitor during the settlement process and that the first settlement offer had been put forward by her. The allegations that she had made regarding her being subjected to duress/fraud/misrepresentation to complete the settlement agreement were rejected, and the Tribunal found there was no evidence to support her claim that she lacked the requisite capacity to complete the agreement. Mrs Richards did not appeal that decision, nor did she seek to have it reviewed or reconsidered.

On 2 May 2016 Mrs Richards issued a further claim against the Trust, alleging that she had been unfairly dismissed and subjected to discrimination arising from disability. Mrs Richards alleged in the claim form that she had not achieved adequate redress in her initial claim and that the COT3 settlement agreement that had been achieved did not represent a fair settlement. The Trust subsequently filed its response to the claim, seeking an order for Mrs Richards’ most recent claim to be struck out.

The application to strike out was considered in a preliminary hearing

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal held that the COT3 settlement agreement agreed between the parties in 2007 on its wording prevented the new litigation from proceeding, as it covered complaints brought under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Equality Act 2010 (which re-enacted the relevant provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1996). The COT3 settlement agreement therefore acted as a bar to the new proceedings and should not be allowed to proceed.

Our solicitors’ view on Mrs M Richards v Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust

Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment team at Redmans, commented on the case: “The wording for settlement agreements is crucial in determining whether new litigation can be brought or not – parties seeking to agree settlement agreements should therefore be extremely careful to ensure that the wording suits their intentions.”

The judgment of the Employment Tribunal in Mrs M Richards v Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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Testimonials

4.62 Average

53 Reviews

Anonymous

Both Rana and Chris were fantastic. From the first phone call I was confident my matter was in good hands. I was not disappointed. I would highly recommend Redmans. Thank you again for all of your support and advice.

Posted 3 days ago

Federico S

Great advices and communication. Through Redmana I obtained match more than what I thought. Highly recommended

Posted 5 days ago

Tom G

A good and efficient service with the required legal advice provided for a settlement agreement.

Posted 5 days ago

Francis T

The solicitor I used was Chris Hadrill, who I found extremely professional and I felt that he made me feel at ease, considering the subject matter he was assisting me with.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Chris provided excellent assistance with the negotiation of my settlement agreement. From start to finish, I was consitently updated and advised on the best course of action to take. I would highly recommend Chris and Redmans Solicitors.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

They are busy people but manage well so generally I would recommend them.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Very efficient and professional service from my first phone call making an enquiry. Timescales of the matter in hand were met and within the agreed budget. Would highly recommend Redmans

Posted 3 weeks ago

Lisa B

Really very good service, always available to answer questions, provide my with any information I needed to make informed decisions.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Offered good support and advice

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Chris reviewed and managed my compromise agreement swiftly, accurately, helpfully, and on budget. His input on key non-compete clauses was valuable, his communications were clear and concise, and he was always swift in responding. Highly recommended.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Gurbir C

Excellent legal advice service.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Tim

I found Redmans to be very helpful and efficient in conducting my case which was concluded in a timely and diligent manner

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

I found Redman Solicitors to be very good and worked very well to an extremely tight timescale. I would happily recommend them again especially Rana.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

I received excellent, knowledgeable and critically timely support from Chris regarding my settlement agreement, and would wholeheartedly recommend Chris in these matters.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Katelyn

The solicitor communicated well with me and made sure I understood everything. He did everything needed for my settlement agreement and tried to get the wording changed in my favour too.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Redmans provided excellent services

Posted 4 weeks ago

Sibel U

Excellent service

Posted 4 weeks ago

Peter S

I was very happy with the level of advise I received from Caroline Lewis, and a very professional service fron Chris, The advice given really helped me and I was comfortable to sign the settlement agreement following my redundancy. I would be more than happy to recommend your services to others.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Derek S

I very much appreciated the help provided by Redmans in the settlement agreement agreed with my former employer.

Posted 1 month ago

Waseem M

It was the first ime I used Redmans Solicitors and to be honest, thety were amazing. Rana Tandon and Chris Hadrill were out of this world. They made the process as simply and smooth as can be. Thank you so much for all your support over the last week.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Worked very quickly considering right deadlines - and gave great advice

Posted 1 month ago