Commercially Sensitive Information: Frewer v Google

April 4th, 2022

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently held that the Employment Tribunal (ET) were wrong to grant an order for anonymisation over Google’s concerns about commercially sensitive information.

Having worked at Google for 12 years, the Claimant was dismissed for alleged sexual harassment. He subsequently brought a claim in the ET for automatically unfair dismissal, asserting that the real reason for his dismissal was that he made allegations about Google being involved in anti-competitive practices.

Ahead of the main hearing, which is set to take place in May 2022, Google applied to the ET for orders to anonymise client names and redact commercially sensitive information in all hearing documents. The orders were granted, with the ET deciding that the identity of Google’s clients and the commercially sensitive information was irrelevant to the issues at hand and therefore their removal would have minimal impact on the principle of open justice. Mr Frewer appealed to the EAT and was successful.

The EAT said the ET had (a) Failed to refer to rule 31 of the ET Rules, which deals with disclosure and is relevant to redaction and (b) Made an error of law in making the determination without regard to the Article 10 right in the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of expression.

The EAT further held that there is a public interest in hearings being conducted in public so the press can report on the names involved. Judge Tayler remarked that if lack of relevance of names was enough for anonymisation then this could apply to every single case that passes through the ET!

Intensely private tech giants: Take note – Judge Tayler wants your dirty laundry aired in public.

This post was written by Jack Dooley, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.

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