Case roundup

Glasgow City Council v Marshall and others, IDS Brief 656, House of Lords

Marshall and her colleagues were instructors at a school for children with learning difficulties and were paid less than the teachers who worked there. All but one of the instructors were female and they brought equal pay claims arguing that they did “like work” to that of the male teachers.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 provides a defence to claims if it can be shown that a pay differential is due to a material factor other than the difference of sex. The council’s defence was that the respective pay scales of instructors and teachers were based on different nationally negotiated scales which was the causative factor in the differential.

After a 52-day hearing the tribunal held the instructors were engaged on “like work” and were entitled to the same pay as the teachers. The council appealed unsuccessfully to the EAT but appealed successfully to the Court of Session. The instructors’ appeal to the House of Lords was dismissed. It accepted the council’s reason for the differential and, as that was not due to sex discrimination, the council did not need objectively to justify the differential any further. Such justification was only necessary where the reason for the differential was tainted by sex discrimination.

Information derived from employee’s general knowledge

AT Poeton v Horton, unreported, May 2000, Court of Appeal

ATP was an electroplating firm and Horton worked as one of its sales engineers until he set up his own business as an electroplater. ATP commenced proceedings against Horton for making use of confidential information relating to ATP’s plating cell apparatus.

The High Court injunctions were granted which restrained Horton from using the apparatus.

Horton successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal. It held that, although the design and configuration of the apparatus used by Horton contained the same features as ATP’s, Horton acquired this information as part of his general knowledge gained during his employment with ATP. This knowledge was acquired without any deliberate memorisation on Horton’s part and he was free to use that information when his employment ended. Further, the features of the plating cell apparatus, taken as a whole, did not amount to a trade secret and so the injunctions were discharged.

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