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

Share →
Testimonials

4.46 Average

13 Reviews

Chris

Couldn’t be happier with how Redmans successfully handled our seemingly tricky case. By being clear and detailed every step of the way, with the utmost professionalism and courtesy, they made it an informative and eye-opening process, taking the stress out of the situation and ultimately delivered what you would want from such a service. I fully appreciate everything they have done, and if I am ever in need of such services in the future, they will be the first number I contact. Excellent.

Posted 1 hour ago

Anonymous

Excellent work delivered with great quality

Posted 2 hours ago

Dominic

Chris Hadrill was a great help both in terms of his advice and his expertise. He explained my options to me clearly and concisely enabling me to quickly make the right decision for me in the circumstance. I would not hesitate to recommend Chris or Redmans to friends or colleagues, and would certainly make Redmans my first port of call should I require a similar service in the future.

Posted 3 hours ago

Kurt

Redmans gave excellent advice and helped me understand everything in clear concepts. Thank you!

Posted 3 hours ago

Anonymous

Resolved my issues

Posted 4 hours ago

Keith

Quick fast professional service.

Posted 4 hours ago

Michael

"Prompt, efficient and practical advice that resulted in me getting some additional money tax free."

Posted 5 hours ago

Anonymous

Patient and thorough advice given to me around my Settlement Agreement

Posted 4 days ago

Anonymous

"Excellent service, getting back to you promptly giving you very good advice."

Posted 5 days ago

Anonymous

I found Chris Hadrill to be an excellent help, he is very knowledgeable and gives good ,concise ,strategic advice .He makes himself readily accessible when you need him.I would personally highly recommend him.

Posted 6 days ago

Christine

Professional, efficient and reliable service provided. I strongly recommend them and I would use this service again.

Posted 1 week ago

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