Sivanandan was dismissed from her position as racial equality officer at the London Borough of Enfield in December 1996. In March 1997, she commenced tribunal proceedings for race and sex discrimination, victimisation, unfair dismissal and breach of contract (for which the tribunal’s jurisdiction was limited to £25,000).
The hearing did not take place until September 2000 and the tribunal accepted Enfield’s application to strike out the claims because Sivanandan’s conduct of the proceedings had been frivolous, vexatious and scandalous.
Sivanandan unsuccessfully appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and was also refused permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
In December 2002, just before the expiry of the six-year limitation period, Sivanandan commenced civil proceedings in the High Court, making a claim for damages for breach of contract.
Enfield then applied for the claim to be struck out as an abuse of process, but she was successful only in part.
The matter was eventually heard by the Court of Appeal. Sivanandan argued that her breach of contract claim had been withdrawn from the tribunal to allow her to pursue the civil proceedings, where the amount that could be rewarded was not limited to £25,000.
The court considered the decision in Sajid v Sussex Muslim Society, and held that if a claim is to be withdrawn from the employment tribunal to be pursued elsewhere, the withdrawal and reasons for it must be made clear.
Finality of litigation and the avoidance of multiplicity of proceedings was a matter of public policy and it would be an abuse of process to open new proceedings in a case that has already been litigated and determined.
The court was satisfied that Sivanandan had not withdrawn her breach of contract claim in the tribunal, rather this part of her claim had been struck out with the other claims in September 2000 and attempting to re-litigate it in the High Court was clearly a duplication of proceedings.