Employment case law updates | May 2020
Employment case law updates | May 2020
Here we take a quick look at some significant employment law decisions from the last couple of months
Vicarious liability – Morrisons Supermarkets and Barclays Bank
A 2018 case involving Morrisons saw an internal IT auditor Mr Skelton who, disgruntled that he had been subjected to disciplinary sanction, steal Morrison’s employee payroll data and put it on the internet. He also sent the data to three national newspapers, purporting to be a concerned member of the public. He was charged, and ultimately convicted of crimes under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and Data Protection Act 1998, which was in force at the time.
However, in the meantime, 9,263 employees of Morrisons brought a class action against Morrisons. They argued that it was vicariously liable for the actions of Mr Skelton, even though he was clearly acting outside of the remit of his role. The Court of Appeal decided that Morrisons was vicariously liable, but this decision was appealed.
In the recent case of Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants  UKSC 12, the Supreme Court fortunately saw sense and overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal, deciding that Morrisons was not vicariously liable for unauthorised breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 committed by an employee.
In a similar decision involving Barclay’s Bank, the Supreme Court decided that a self-employed medical practitioner was not in a relationship "akin to employment" with a bank that had engaged him to perform medical examinations on potential bank employees. The bank would therefore not be liable for sexual assaults allegedly committed by him. (Barclays Bank plc v Various Claimants  UKSC 13)
Carluccio’s furlough case
The case of Carluccio's Ltd (in administration) Re  EWHC 886 (Ch) (13 April 2020) related to the administrators of Carluccios furloughing employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
When a company goes into administration, an administrator is appointed to promote its rescue as a going concern, or to realise its assets. The question here was whether the employees had validly agreed to the change in the terms and conditions of their contract of employment, such that they could be furloughed.
In what is no doubt one of many cases involving the CJRS, the High Court held that the employment contracts of employees, employed by a company in administration, had been varied by their explicit agreement to the administrators' proposal in a letter to furlough them under the CJRS. Note that this decision of the High Court pre-dates the new guidance from the Treasury, which provides that any agreement to furlough must be obtained in writing.
Homophobic recruitment policy comments made on a radio programme
In the case of NH v Associazione Avvocatura per i diritti LGBTI — Rete Lenford (Case C-507/18), the European Court of Justice has held that remarks made on a radio programme, that suggested a homophobic recruitment policy, are capable of falling within the scope of unlawful discrimination as defined in the Equal Treatment Framework Directive.
Employing someone subject to restrictive covenants – inducing a breach of contract
A former employer will often threaten legal action against a new employer on the basis that they have induced, or conspired with the former employee, to breach their contractual post-termination restrictions.
In an important judgement (Allen t/a David Allen Chartered Accountants v Dodd & Co), the Court of Appeal has held that an accountancy firm was not liable for inducing a breach of contract where it recruited an employee in breach of his post-termination restrictions (having received advice that the restrictions were probably not enforceable).
If you have any questions please contact a member of your local employment team.
Shakespeare Martineau has launched a free legal helpline, with a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters. We are also offering bespoke guidance on a range of other subjects, from employment and general business matters, through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.
General advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.
SHMA® ON DEMAND
Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.
All the latest views and insights on current topics.
India opens up to collaborations and campuses with international universities
The Indian higher education market has finally opened up to non-Indian universities. The snappily-titled, […]
Big News For Education Procurement Watchers
Shakespeare Martineau Win At The Family Law Awards 2023
Shakespeare Martineau Appoints Midlands Corporate Partner
Shakespeare Martineau Appoints Eight Newly Qualified Solicitors
Supreme Court decision in Agnew
How can we help?
Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333