Case roundup

This week’s case roundup

Principal liable for discriminatory acts of agent
Lana v Positive Action Training in Housing (London), IDS 694, EAT

PAT had a contract with Lana stating it could provide her with a year’s work
experience placement with WM, starting in October 1998. In the contract between
WM and PAT, it was agreed that WM (described as Lana’s employer) would pay PAT
£10,000 towards Lana’s training allowance.

In February 1999, Lana discovered she was pregnant and when she informed WM
of this her placement was terminated, supposedly on the grounds of poor
performance. PAT then terminated its contract with Lana because it had no other
placement and insufficient funding to continue Lana’s contract.

Lana claimed sex discrimination against PAT. The tribunal, however, accepted
PAT’s reasons for terminating the placement and accordingly, as Lana’s
pregnancy was not the reason for the placement ending, there was no sex
discrimination.

Lana successfully appealed to the EAT. It found that PAT had engaged WM to
discharge its training obligations to Lana and, as the principal, could be
liable for WM’s acts of discrimination if they were carried out with PAT’s
express or implied authority. It said the tribunal, rather than PAT, should
have considered the reasons why WM terminated the placement. The EAT remitted
the case to a new tribunal.

Constructive dismissal difficult to establish
Quinn v Weir Systems, IRLB 673, EAT

Quinn was a long-serving employee of Weir which was in financial
difficulties and all its staff were aware of possible future redundancies. In
January 2000, a director remarked to his secretary that Quinn would be the next
to go. She mentioned this to another employee who in turn told Quinn.

Despite attempts to dissuade him, Quinn resigned and unsuccessfully claimed
constructive dismissal. The tribunal held that Quinn had not been placed in an
intolerable position and he should have treated the remark as of little or no
consequence.

Quinn appealed, arguing that the tribunal’s decision was perverse in that
the original remark made by a director to a secretary constituted a breach of
trust and confidence amounting to a repudiatory breach.

The EAT disagreed. The tribunal had properly considered the evidence,
including the employee’s awareness of possible redundancies and the fact that
the director had not known or intended that his remark would be conveyed to
Quinn, who had only been made aware of it because of the secretary’s failure to
maintain the confidentiality the director expected of her.

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