Laneres v Marks & Spencer plc, EAT, 25 November 2003

Beware of lengthy grievance investigations: Laneres went on sick leave from work and alleged that she had been bullied by her supervisor for a number of years. She initiated the grievance procedure in September 2000 and resigned in February 2001. While off work, she learned that her supervisor was retiring, and she allegedly reacted angrily to this.

By majority, the tribunal concluded that the cause of the resignation was Laneres’ desire to obtain acknowledgement of the treatment she had received from her supervisor. It was not connected with the length of time the investigation had taken, which the tribunal deemed unreasonable and constituted a material breach of contract. Laneres appealed, and so did her employer, arguing that the real reason for the resignation was vengeance.

Laneres’ appeal was allowed. The tribunal concluded that the investigation was unreasonably long as it had not ended by the time of resignation in February 2001, after inititation in September 2000 – a material breach of contract.

The duration of the investigation could not be separated from the issue of resignation and should have been considered in a constructive dismissal case.

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