Case roundup

This week’s case roundup

No breach of contract for making Pilon
CRS Computers Ltd v Mackenzie, EAT All ER (D) 173

Although CRS agreed to provide Mackenzie with a company car with a lease
value of £350 per month, his preferred vehicle exceeded that allowance and he
agreed to make an annual contribution to the lease cost of £2,160 which was to
be deducted from his salary. He also agreed to pay any settlement charges on
the lease if he left employment for any reason within the first year and those
charges would be deducted from his salary and any other payments due to him.
Mackenzie was made redundant and received two weeks pay in lieu of notice. He
brought a tribunal claim and CRS counter-claimed arguing Mackenzie was liable
to pay the settlement charges on the leased vehicle. The tribunal allowed
Mackenzie’s claim. It construed the word ‘leave’ as implying an element of
voluntariness on Mackenzie’s part and held that paying Mackenzie in lieu of
notice when there was no express contractual right to do so constituted breach
of contract.

Accordingly, CRS was unable to rely on the agreed contractual terms in
relation to the company car.

CRS successfully appealed. A payment in lieu of notice was not a fundamental
breach going to the root of the contract which set aside the entire contract.
Consequently, CRS could rely on the express provisions agreed in respect of the
company car. Moreover, "leave for any reason" covered both voluntary
and involuntary cessation of employment.

Identifying the appropriate comparator
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police v McGinley, IRLB 686, April 2002

In 1992, McGinley settled her sex discrimination claim against the
Commissioner and, in 1994, took up occupation of a married quarters flat even
though she did not satisfy the eligibility criteria (she already owned a flat
in London). The rules of entitlement were subsequently enforced and McGinley
was told she had to leave the police flat in September 1996 unless she sold her
own flat. McGinley went off work suffering from stress and did nothing about
selling her flat and although she was granted an extension of one year, by
April 1998, she was still ill. The housing recovery officer applied for vacant
possession.

McGinley successfully claimed the attempted eviction constituted victimisation.
The tribunal held the Commissioner’s proposed comparators (four officers with
financial problems or requiring extensions of time on compassionate grounds)
were inappropriate as none had brought a sex discrimination claim or been on
stress-related sick leave. The Commissioner successfully appealed. Applying
Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Khan 2001, the EAT held it was
appropriate to rely on comparators whose circumstances were comparable because
even though they had not done a protected act, they had done an act similar in
nature. On that basis, McGinley had not been treated less favourably.

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