Steer was employed by Stormsure for four months and alleged both that she was subjected to sexual harassment from a colleague and that Stormsure failed to protect her from this harassment. She also presented a grievance in June 2020 which she claimed was not investigated properly. Steer made a request to work from home to safeguard herself from unwanted harassment and she was permitted to do so (but instructed to install screen-shot monitoring software).
On 9 July 2020, Steer was notified by Stormsure that her working hours were to be reduced to 60%. Steer alleged that this was as a result of her child-care responsibilities and amounted to an express dismissal, and that that dismissal amounted to sex discrimination and victimisation.
Steer then presented a claim to the employment tribunal, seeking interim relief in relation to a whistleblowing claim and a claim of sex discrimination and victimisation. The tribunal subsequently listed an interim relief hearing but only in relation to the whistleblowing claim. Steer asked the tribunal to reconsider but it decided that it did not have jurisdiction to grant interim relief in the discrimination and victimisation claims.
Appeal to Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
Steer lodged an appeal with the EAT on three grounds:
- The Tribunal erred in law in deciding it did not have the power to grant interim relief in discrimination and victimisation claims;
- The Tribunal erred in law concluding that it had no jurisdiction to order interim relief for contraventions of the Equality Act 20210 without first hearing from the appellant; and
- The Tribunal decision was inadequately reasoned.
The EAT directed that a preliminary hearing should be held. At the preliminary hearing, Cavanagh J refused the second and third grounds but directed that the first ground should proceed to a hearing. At the hearing, it was held that there was no breach caused by the unavailability of interim relief in claims for discrimination. Steer appealed this decision.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, concluding that the fact interim relief in the tribunal is available to a dismissed whistle-blower but not to the appellant, is not discrimination on the grounds of sex, and the remedies available to Steer were not any less favourable to her than those available to a dismissed whistle-blower.
There was a lot of anticipation concerning this case, as to whether there would be a substantial change in the law. However, the position remains the same, as confirmed by the Court of Appeal, that interim relief is not available for discrimination claims.
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