Managing partner wins disability discrimination claims against firm


Tribunal: Declaration by consent

The managing partner of a South Yorkshire law firm has won his claim for disability discrimination against the practice.

Employment Judge Maidment in Leeds recorded that GWBHarthills and partners Hester Russell and Elizabeth Lord had admitted both direct and indirect disability discrimination, as well as a failure to make reasonable adjustments, in relation to Michael Willis.

As there was no hearing, the background to the case was not detailed by the judge, but he declared by consent that Mr Willis’s discrimination complaints succeeded in respect of:

  • His removal from his role as designated member and managing partner of the firm;
  • The steps taken to expel him as a member;
  • Removing and reinstating him as a person with significant control of the firm;
  • Removing him from the firm’s decision making and management processes;
  • Withholding management and accounting information from him; and
  • Excluding him from a partners’ meeting in January 2020.

His indirect disability discrimination succeeded over the practice of holding partnership meetings at the firm’s Rotherham office (it is also in Sheffield and Doncaster).

The failure to make reasonable adjustments related to not allowing Mr Willis to work from home, continue with his management roles and/or return to work on a phased basis.

Ms Russell and Ms Lord were declared liable for the acts of unlawful discrimination as agents of the law firm.

Mr Willis’s remaining complaints were dismissed after he withdrew them, but he reserved the right to bring a breach of contract claim.

The judge ordered that the case be listed for a remedy hearing and to hear Mr Willis’s application for costs.

Ms Lord declined to comment as the case was ongoing. Mr Willis has not responded to requests for comment.

The three lawyers are the partners of the Sheffield-based firm. According to Companies House, Mr Willis – a criminal defence lawyer – ceased to be a person with significant control of GWBHarthills on 19 December 2019 and returned to that position on 22 January 2020.

With around 50 staff, it specialises in family and criminal law. The firm was created in 2015 through the merger of Grayson Willis Bennett and Harthills.




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