Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In the case of Martin v Lancehawk Ltd (t/a European Telecom Solutions) UKEAT/0525/03/2203 the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal that the dismissal of a female employee by her male boss after a sexual relationship between them ended was not direct sex discrimination.

The facts

Alexandra Martin commenced employment with Lancehawk Limited in April 2001. In July 2001 Mrs Martin, who was married at the time to man named ‘Steve’, began an affair with Mr Lovering, managing director of Lancehawk Limited (“Lancehawk”) and in a relationship with a woman named Gillian. The fact of the affair was known by other members of staff at Lancehawk.

By October 2002 some problems with the affair were starting to emerge and on 18 October 2002 Mrs Martin resolved that she should tell her husband Steve about the affair. She did so and Steve was upset. On 21 October 2002 Mrs Martin had a conversation with a colleague, Mrs Crookes in the Lancehawk kitchen, and informed Mrs Crookes that she had told Steve of the affair and that he was coming to the workplace that day to confront her about it. Mrs Crookes relayed this information to Mr Lovering, and Mr Lovering was upset as Mrs Martin had previously assured him she was not going to tell Steve of the affair. The affair came to an end on 21 October 2002 and Mrs Martin was dismissed shortly after on allegations that her actions had caused a breakdown in the trust and confidence that had previously existed between the parties (there were some allegations made that Mrs Martin had searched Mr Lovering’s desk and that she had threatened to cause harm to the business).

Mrs Martin brought claims to the Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, and direct sex discrimination.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal found that the reason for Mrs Martin’s dismissal was because Mr Lovering thought that Mrs Martin had lied to him and because of the contents of the conversation that she had had with Mrs Crookes, and not for any other reason. The Tribunal found that Mrs Martin’s claim for unfair dismissal succeeded, principally because there had been no investigation carried out into the allegations of misconduct put to Mrs Martin.

The Tribunal, however, dismissed Mrs Martin’s claim for direct sex discrimination as it found that she had not been treated less favourably because of her gender.

Mrs Martin appealed the Tribunal’s finding on sex discrimination.

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The EAT rejected Mrs Martin’s appeal, holding that the Tribunal had properly applied the law on sex discrimination (under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, at the time) as, principally, the correct comparator in the circumstances would have been a male employee with whom Mr Lovering had had a sexual relationship, and the Tribunal (nor the EAT) would have had any reason to believe that the male employee would have been treated more favourably in such circumstances. Equally, the EAT rejected Mrs Martin’s argument that the Tribunal should have applied a “but for” test (i.e. that, ‘but for’ the fact that Mrs Martin was a woman, she would not have been dismissed), holding that the correct test regarding causation was the ‘reason why’ an employee had been treated in a particular fashion.

Our comment on the case

This case is one of a number of cases (see our article earlier this week) that the EAT has had to rule on regarding the correct causation and comparator tests to be applied in cases of direct sex discrimination, and renders it difficult for employees to succeed with claims of direct sex discrimination if they have been dismissed because of the breakdown in a relationship with a colleague. However, depending on the circumstances the employee may be able to bring claims of sexual harassment, gender-related harassment and/or victimisation in the same circumstances.

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).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.67 Average

66 Reviews

Anonymous

As with All solicitors advice without consequence but understood and communicated my legal position

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Prompt, professional and excellent service.

Posted 1 week ago

Dominic C

Excellent service, prompt and helpful

Posted 2 weeks ago

Anonymous

I found Redman’s to be very efficient and got me the best deal available in the short time scale that was available.

Posted 2 weeks ago

Victor L

Very professional. Provided excellent advice on my Settlement agreement.

Posted 2 weeks ago

Anonymous

Professional from start to finish.

Posted 2 weeks ago

Oliver W

Excellent service provided by Redmans, will certainly consider using again.

Posted 2 weeks ago

Melanie H

Very professional and extremely personable service. Thank you very much.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

I found Chris to be very approachable and easy to speak with about complex matters. He took action quickly and his updates to me, as his client, were prompt. I would recommend Chris and the team at Redmans without hesitation.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Good advice

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Overall happy with the service provided by Chris and Rana.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

Chris and Rana provide a great service, very informed, diligent and care about your result, would recommend Redmans

Posted 4 weeks ago

David W

A speedy efficient friendly service, I would definitely recommend Redmans Solicitors for processing Settlement Agreements.

Posted 4 weeks ago

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 1 month ago

Federico S

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

Posted 1 month ago

Tom G

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

Posted 1 month 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 month 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 month ago

Anonymous

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

Posted 1 month 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 1 month ago

Lisa B

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

Posted 1 month ago