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Strike-out: Tribunal Jurisdiction

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Was it reasonably arguable that a tribunal had jurisdiction to consider claims against US-based Respondents who did not employ the Claimants?

Yes, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the long-running case of Armes v TwistDX and others.

Dr Armes and his wife (the Claimants) worked for a UK business. The business developed amplified DNA technology. Dr Armes sold his shares in 2010 to a US-based group which was itself purchased in 2017 by another US business. The Claimants were dismissed in 2018.

They brought a raft of employment claims against:

 - The UK business – the employer of the Claimants (R1)

 - the US company which owned the UK business (R2);

 - three US-based individuals (R3,4 and 5);

 - two UK-based individuals who, the claimants argued, were agents of R1 for the purpose of whistleblowing detriments (R6 and R7).

An application was made to have the claims against R2, R3, R4, and R5 struck out because the tribunal lacked international jurisdiction.

The EAT held that the tribunal had been right not to strike-out the claim against R2. For the tribunal to have jurisdiction over R2, the Recast Brussels Regulation required that R2 employed the Claimants within the wider meaning of ‘employment’ set-out in those Regulations, or that R1 was a branch, agency or other establishment of R2. Both points were ‘reasonably arguable’.  

The tribunal was also correct to conclude that it was ‘reasonably arguable’ that the tribunal had jurisdiction over R3, 4 and 5, on the basis of Rule 8 of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013 (which allowed a claim to be presented to the tribunal in England & Wales if one of the respondents resided or carried out business in England and Wales; one or more act or omissions took place in England in Wales or the claim related to a contract under which the work was performed partly in England and Wales).

A substantive hearing will now be arranged at which the jurisdiction issues will be considered in full.