Discrimination claims against leading firm an “abuse of process”


Shoosmiths: New allegations against firm were from old facts

An employment tribunal has ruled that claims of racial discrimination and harassment brought against national firm Shoosmiths amount to an abuse of process.

The woman who brought them, Bosede Sule, had already won £1,000 damages against the firm for harassment at the end of last year, acting as a litigant in person.

This related to a single comment made by another member of staff, but all her broader claims of discrimination and victimisation over the handling of her grievance process and dismissal were dismissed.

In the latest ruling, employment judge T Vincent Ryan told Ms Sule, who worked as an administrative assistant in Shoosmiths’ Manchester property department, that all her latest claims were “late and out of time”.

The judge said they amounted to “an abuse of process in circumstances where the claimant has failed to satisfactorily explain why the claims were not presented” in the earlier proceedings.

Judge Ryan also said that, so far as the latest claimed overlapped with discrimination allegations already brought against Shoosmiths, they could be regarded as res judicata, or already determined.

The judge said, at the beginning of his judgment, that Ms Sule’s claims “raises serious issues of alleged discrimination and concern for access to justice and the needs of litigants in person”.

However, he described how, at the outset of her “difficulties at work” Nigerian-born Ms Sule was advised by a CAB, which referred her to Merseyside Employment Law (MEL).

She had “at least a telephone assessment and then subsequent correspondence from MEL, which she chose not to pursue”.

She obtained further legal advice for her appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which failed, though she lodged the appeal herself.

“On and off throughout the period from July 2016 to date the claimant has had legal advice, and access to further advice which she chose not to pursue.

“In and since July 2016 she has presented a claim in person, succeeded with a claim in person, appealed in person, applied for reconsideration in person and presented three subsequent claims in person; the claimant is clearly a resourceful and able person, and I do not doubt for a moment that she is capable of representing herself and making technical claims and applications if she so chooses.”

Judge Ryan said Ms Sule had known everything she relied on for her claims for at least two years and three months, and the knowledge could be said to have crystallised by no later than March 2017 or around 18 months ago.

“It must be borne in mind, and I said so at the outset, how serious allegations of discrimination are; they are serious not only for the person who feels that they are the victim of discrimination but also those against whom the allegations are made where their management style, their conduct, is being scrutinised and called into serious question.

“They too may be suffering some anxiety because they have been singled out but in any event they stand accused of unlawful discrimination; the claims are denied.”

The tribunal heard in Sule v Shoosmiths that Ms Bule made what were said to be “new claims” of direct race discrimination, racial harassment and victimisation.

Judge Ryan said extension of time for presenting claims to the tribunal was “an exception not the rule” and prejudice weighed more heavily against the respondent, because “these newly made allegations are old facts which the claimant knew about and could have and should have raised much sooner- that was in her power”.

He added: “This has been a very long evolution without good reason for it taking so long.”




Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reports

No larger firm can ignore the demands of innovation – that was the clear message from our most recent roundtable: “The law firm of the future”, sponsored by LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions. It comes in many forms, predominantly but not just technology, and is not simply a case of automating process. Expertise and process are not mutually exclusive.

Blog

25 March 2019

Lessons from the DWF IPO

DWF became the largest law firm listing in British history after its successful IPO earlier this month. As competitors keep a careful eye on its progress, what lessons can they draw as to public listings?

Read More