Employment Appeal Tribunal rules ‘jealousy sacking’ of ex-lover did not amount to sex discrimination

A solicitor who had a sexual relationship with his personal assistant, and then sacked her when he found out that she was seeing someone else, has won his appeal against a sex discrimination charge.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ‘jealousy sacking’ amounted to unfair dismissal, rather than discrimination. Legal experts believe the decision is a boost for employers as it removes an avenue for costly discrimination cases.

The unnamed East London law firm now faces a maximum compensation charge of £58,400. The solicitor, whose identity has been protected by the tribunal, was originally convicted of sex discrimination, which carries an uncapped compensation limit.

Lawyers acting for the personal assistant claimed she was a victim of sex discrimination due to what is known as the ‘but for’ clause. They argued that but for her being a woman, she would not have been sacked, as she would not have had a relationship with her boss in the first place. However, the EAT ruled that the dismissal itself was not connected to her gender, but to her actions.

“Big companies have regular problems with employee relationships, and many outlaw them for fear of what happens if they break down,” said Greg Campbell, head of employment at law firm Faegre & Benson.

“This decision emphasises that as long as you treat male and female employees equally, there is no sex discrimination case.”

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