Lance Coutinho is a British Asian who was employed as an IT specialist by Vision Information Services. In 2004, Vision's business was transferred to a subsidiary of the Rank Organisation, now known as Rank Nemo (DMS) Limited. However, a few months before the transfer took effect, Coutinho had been dismissed, ostensibly for redundancy. Eventually he won a claim against Rank Nemo (to whom liability had been transferred under TUPE) for unfair dismissal and race discrimination.
Rank Nemo did not pay up, so he brought proceedings in the county court to enforce the award, and obtained judgment for more than £72,000. When Rank Nemo failed to satisfy the judgment, he brought further proceedings in the employment tribunal claiming, among other things, that withholding the money was an act of victimisation that infringed the Race Relations Act 1977 (RRA). The employment tribunal struck out his claim, which was ultimately the subject of an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Section 2 of the RRA outlaws discrimination by way of victimisation if a claimant is treated less favourably because of a "protected act". Protected acts include the bringing of proceedings under the RRA. Section 2 does not specify whether ex-employees are protected, but since the Rhys-Harper group of appeals heard by the House of Lords in 2004, it has been clear that former employees can be protected in certain circumstances.
Since that decision, the RRA and other discrimination legislation has been amended to make it clear that ex-employees continue to be protected after their employment relationship has ended where the act of discrimination or harassment "arises out of and is closely connected to that relationship" - see, for example, section 27A of the RRA. However, these new provisions do not extend to victimisation.
The Court of Appeal reversed the employment tribunal's decision and ruled that Coutinho's case should proceed to a full hearing. It agreed with the Empl