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The (nearly) naked truth about unfair dismissal
Wednesday 02 May 2012 by Jonathan Rayner
So what does a lapdancer earning £200,000 a year have in common with a retired litigation partner from the Home Counties?
Nice legs, perhaps? Or maybe they were both paid with ‘Heavenly Money’ vouchers that wealthy clients slipped into their garter belts? Nope. The answer is more mundane: they have both just taken their former employers to court on the grounds, they claim, that they were unfairly dismissed.
Nadine Quashie, 29, was a dancer with Stringfellow Restaurants Limited until 2008 when, she claims, she was wrongly sacked after being falsely accused of dealing in drugs. She took her former employers to an employment tribunal, alleging unfair dismissal, but her claim was dismissed because she was deemed not to be an employee under the terms of the Employment Rights Act 1996, but to be self-employed.
This meant she was not entitled to have her case heard at the tribunal or to benefit from the protections that the law gives employees.
Undeterred, she took her claim to the employment appeal tribunal (EAT), which reversed the earlier decision, ruling that she satisfied the minimum requirements for a contract of employment to exist. These requirements are an element of control and personal service in the arrangement between herself and the club, and in particular a mutual obligation between them to provide and do work.
The EAT went on to find that Quashie was an employee on each night that she worked at the club and that there was also an ‘umbrella contract’ between periods of work. She is now returning to the employment tribunal to seek damages.
Quashie is believed to be the first ‘gentlemen’s club’ lapdancer to have succeeded in claiming employment rights and protection. Her solicitor, London firm Bindmans employment partner Shah Qureshi, said: ‘This judgment is a vindication of Nadine Quashie’s long struggle for employment rights. She worked under a contract over which Stringfellows had control and under which she was required to provide services for payment. There were mutual obligations that had all the hallmarks of an employment relationship and yet my client was denied her basic employment rights.
‘Dancers in clubs are often exploited due to their lack of employment status, including financial penalties for not working. The door is now open for them to assert their rights and for better regulation within the industry.’
So it was a great day for justice, then, a terminal blow struck against the exploitation of women everywhere? Nope - or, at least, not in the view of some of the people who read the story on the Daily Mail website. Three posters hoped that HM Revenue & Customs was on Quashie’s case because, after all, she was earning serious money. Another opined that the case was ‘proof that (the UK) is now a stupid, corrupt nation that has declined morally, ethically and socially.’
A woman poster commented: ‘YOU SHOULD KNOW BY NOW (sic) that the sort of women who blatantly exploit their bodies to get what they want will go further if given the opportunity - FAME AND MONEY (sic) is what they want next.’
The self-styled Crazy Joe was one of the few voices raised in Quashie’s support. He posted: ‘Good luck to her. Workers’ rights have gone down the drain in this country. Stand up and fight!’
The other case concerned Leslie Seldon, a former equity partner who claimed unfair dismissal on the grounds of age discrimination when, back in 2006, Kent firm Clarkson Wright & Jakes (CWJ) insisted that he retired aged 65.
Seldon took his case to a 2008 employment tribunal, a 2009 employment appeal tribunal, the Court of Appeal in 2010 and the Supreme Court in 2012. He was unsuccessful in all four applications, the courts accepting CWJ’s argument that it retired partners at 65 ‘as a legitimate business aim’ to allow younger solicitors to step up to partnership and to help retain talented lawyers who might move on to gain promotion. It was, the courts ruled, ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
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