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Appeal allowed against unlawful discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of De Lacey v The Andrew Hill Salon  Ms Lauren de Lacey was employed as a trainee hair stylist at the Andrew Hill salon in Newton Abbott, Devon. She commenced her employment in September 2012.  She discovered that she was pregnant in May 2015 and informed her employer the same month.  She went off on maternity leave from 18 October 2015 and returned to work at the end of August/beginning of September 2016.  She resigned on 19 January 2017.

De Lacey brought claims of pregnancy, maternity and sex discrimination and also made claims of unfair dismissal arising from constructive dismissal following a series of events from May to October 2015 and then from her return after maternity leave until her resignation, which she claimed amounted to a course of discriminatory conduct and also to matters which, taken cumulatively, amounted to a repudiatory breach of the implied term of trust and confidence in her contract of employment.  These culminated in a “last straw” on 17 January 2017, when the Appellant had been instructed, in front of other trainees, to clean up dog faeces, and had been laughed at.

The EAT held that the ET fell into the trap of regarding the fact that there was no discriminatory course of conduct as being determinative of the discriminatory constructive dismissal claim. Accordingly, the case would be remitted to the same ET to determine whether the Appellant suffered direct sex discrimination in relation to the two allegations that were made out and, if so, whether the discriminatory matters sufficiently influenced the overall repudiatory breach so as to render the constructive dismissal discriminatory.

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