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Jurisdiction for Ex-Employee to bring Sex Discrimination Claim

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The Court of Appeal has held that claims cannot be brought under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 by ex-employees, in respect of alleged acts of discrimination occurring after the dismissal.

The case is Christine Rhys-Harper v Relaxion Group plc (C of A, 3rd May 2001, reported at$FILE/civil_rhys_harper.htm).

The Applicant was dismissed in October 1998. Shortly after dismissal, in November, she raised allegations of sexual harassment by her manager whilst she was employed. The Respondent held an investigation and rejected her complaint. She claimed that the failure to allow her complaint was a detriment for the purposes of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

Does section 6 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which refers to a woman "employed by" a Respondent to claim that she was subjected to a detriment, allow an ex-employee to claim that she was subjected to a detriment?

No. The wording of section 6 is plain, and only allows claims brought by people who were employees at the date of the alleged discrimination. The ECJ in Coote v Granada Hospitality (where it was held that a reference provided after a dismissal was capable of founding a claim of victimisation under the Sex Discrimination Act) allowed very limited categories of claims. The Court of Appeal's reasoning in Post Office v Adekeye, where the Court held that ex-employees could not claim under the Race Relations Act 1976, should be followed when considering non-victimisation claims under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

Whilst a consistent approach towards ex-employees under the sex and race legislation is laudable, it is regrettable that Coote still complicates matters in claims of victimisation. Further, it is unfortunate that the sex and race legislation does not protect ex-employees in these situations - but that is a legislative matter and not one for the courts!99