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Employers facing claims of sex discrimination

3rd January, 2013

The week commencing 10 December 2012, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher was in the London Central Employment Tribunal defending claims of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination brought by its former accounts manager, Dionne Paull. Ms Paull, who worked at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher for almost three years, claimed damages for loss of earnings, injury to feelings and injury to health. Ms Paull was dismissed in November 2011 after being on maternity leave for a year. She claimed this was “on the pretext” of alleged gross misconduct over a deficiency in the firm’s petty cash. Ms Paull claimed that Gibson Dunn & Crutcher “raised a number of other contrived complaints”, including breaches of Solicitors Account Rules in order to justify her dismissal, but that the real reason for her dismissal was her pregnancy and because the firm did not want to bear the “cost and inconvenience” of her being absent from the office. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s London co-managing partner, James Cox, said “we believe that these claims are without merit and we’re vigorously defending them.”

By way of background, sex discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”). It is unlawful for an employer to:

  • Discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of their sex;
  • Discriminate indirectly by applying a provision, criterion or practice that disadvantages job applicants or employees of one sex without objective justification;
  • Subject an employee or job applicant to harassment in relation to sex, sexual harassment, or less favourable treatment because they reject or submit to harassment; or
  • Victimise a job applicant or employee because they have made or intend to make a sex discrimination complaint under the Act, or because they have taken action or intend to take action in connection with the Act.

However, sex discrimination may be permitted in certain circumstances. For example; where there is an occupational requirement for an employee to be of a certain sex and certain positive action may be permitted to address existing inequalities. Our specialist employment law solicitors can advise you in relation to whether your business is complying with its obligations under the Act.

For advice relating to sex discrimination and/or unfair dismissal claims, please contact our Head of Employment, Helen Watson, by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or by telephone on 01244 405565.

 

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