ET refused to hear claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination
The Employment Tribunal was correct in refusing to hear the claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination of two claimants who wished to bring a claim against US Air Force Europe on the basis of state immunity, the EAT has ruled.
Facts of case
The case concerned two British claimants who were employed as civilian personnel by US Air Force Europe (USAFE) and worked at USAFE operated bases within the UK; one within a records management role and the other as a firefighter. Both claimants sought to bring claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.
Employment Tribunal decision
When the case was put to the Tribunal, the Employment Judge decided that the claims fell within the remit of state immunity, which is the principle that the sovereign acts of a state cannot be adjudicated on by the courts of another state. The Employment Judge reached this conclusion by considering previous case law on the area and posing the question whether the claimants’ roles involved public/governmental functions of the United States. The Judge found that military record-keeping and the provision of an independent fire service is a function of the state. As a consequence, the claims had to be dismissed without a determination of their merits. The claimants would need to pursue a claim in the foreign state’s courts, here the courts of the United States. The claimants appealed the decision.
Employment Appeals Tribunal (‘EAT’)
The EAT dismissed the appeals of both claimants and confirmed that the Employment Tribunal had been correct to rule that it had no jurisdiction to hear the claims on the basis of state immunity. The Judge summarised the position of state immunity in the context of employment relations as depending ‘on whether the relationship between the parties arises from the state’s sovereign act in employing the individual, because the functions carried out by the person are sovereign or governmental.’
Here, for the same reasons given by the Employment Tribunal, the functions carried out by the claimants fell within this definition. This meant that regardless of the merits of their claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination, the claimants were not entitled to bring a claim.
This blog was written by Michael Green, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.