Is hostility at work a good reason to resign? 

Is hostility at work a good reason to resign? 

Associate solicitor Jennifer Wall won her claim of unfair dismissal against the London law firm Gannons owing to issues with her return to work after maternity leave.

You can find the full judgment in the case of here.

The Tribunal dismissed all allegations of pregnancy discrimination against the firm but identified five instances where Gannons damaged the employer-employee relationship, most importantly the core trust and confidence which is the bedrock of every employment relationship. 

The instances included Gannons’ suggestion for Ms Walls to give notice or resign and its intention to assume that if she did not return to work prior to 12-months’ maternity leave, her job would only remain open until a date before the end of her maternity leave. Secondly, Gannons reneged on an agreement relating to Ms Walls’ return. Other issues were the ‘baseless criticism’ in response to her flexible working request, denial of that request and the lack of interest to have a face-to-face meeting with Ms Wall to discuss her request. 

The Tribunal concluded that Gannons’ actions indeed damaged the trust and confidence of the relationship. Not only that, but Gannons also failed to pay Ms Wall’s pension contribution, which was deemed to be discriminatory as she was entitled to statutory maternity leave. 

The Tribunal concluded that Ms Wall was constructively dismissed due to the cumulative mistreatment. The final issue was an email from the Practice Director which, in addition to its tone, contained an unnecessary reminder that Ms Wall was not entitled to appeal the decision to refuse her flexible working request. However, in the Tribunal’s eyes, the dismissal was not discriminatory. 

The Tribunal found that Gannons’ actions related to flexible working were based on practicality rather than discriminatory intent, as they believed that part-time remote work for a corporate lawyer was not feasible. In addition to this, the Firm’s requirement for full time working was considered a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and was not indirect sex discrimination.

A remedy hearing is scheduled for April. The Tribunal acknowledged Ms Walls’ entitlement to three months’ notice even though she had expressed unwillingness to work full time in the London office during her notice period.

Constructive dismissal is a tricky area of law. I would always advise anyone thinking of relying on it to take legal advice first. 

This blog was written by Elizabeth McGlone, Partner at didlaw.