An employment tribunal has ruled that it was wrong to uphold an unfair dismissal claim against a partner in a law firm closed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The case should instead have been brought against the firm, said Employment Judge Jones in the East London Hearing Centre.
However, he ruled that K Nasreen, who had been a receptionist at Malik Law Chambers for more than three years, could continue with a pregnancy and sex discrimination claim against Dr Akbar Ali Malik.
The firm had offices in both East and West London, and also Birmingham. It was shut down by the SRA in April 2018, which said there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of both Dr Malik and registered foreign lawyer Imtiaz Ali. Ms Nasreen worked in the East London office.
She said that, following four weeks of sick leave due to a pregnancy related illness in January 2018, her husband was told by Malik Law Chambers that she was no longer needed.
She continued to send medical certificates and messages to Dr Malik and made several calls, but “received no reply and her calls went unanswered”.
A Citizens Advice Bureau which contacted the law firm on Ms Nasreen’s behalf was told she had been “dismissed because she took unauthorised holidays in 2017”, which she denied. ACAS later tried unsuccessfully to contact Dr Malik.
At the original tribunal hearing in October 2018, Judge Jones awarded her £4,700 for her claims for unpaid wages and holiday pay, unfair dismissal and pregnancy-related sex discrimination.
Dr Malik appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which ruled last August that the appeal should be stayed to allow Dr Malik to apply to the employment tribunal for a reconsideration.
Following this, Judge Jones found that her original ruling against Dr Malik in relation to unfair dismissal, unlawful deduction of wages and holiday pay could not stand “as it is unlikely that Dr Malik employed her personally even though he was the main person who dealt with her in relation to her employment”.
He added: “Those complaints are more correctly brought against the claimant’s employer, Malik Law Solicitors/Malik Law Chambers.”
Judge Jones said Ms Nasreen would “seek legal advice” about her contractual claims against the former law firm and she would consider “applying to the liquidators for permission to continue”.
The judge ruled that Ms Nasreen’s claims of pregnancy-related discrimination against Dr Malik personally could continue. A full hearing of the case is scheduled for April this year.
Last June, Ealing Council obtained a £500,000 confiscation order against Dr Malik after a long-running saga over the solicitor’s use of a terraced house in Southall as an office.