A former managing partner at a limited liability partnership (LLP) will be allowed to pursue a claim against the firm in an alleged whistleblowing claim after the Court of Appeal dismissed the firm's challenge to an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling.
Solicitor Andrew Roberts is suing Wilsons Solicitors LLP of Salisbury for £3.4m, claiming he was constructively dismissed.
Giving lead judgment in Wilsons Solicitors LLP & Others v Roberts, Lord Justice Singh said: 'There is no rule of law which precludes the present claimant from seeking to claim the post-termination losses which he does on the ground that they are attributable to the allegedly unlawful pre-termination detriments about which he complains.'
Singh said the factual background in the case 'is likely to be contentious in due course. However, because the relevant part of the claim was struck out at a preliminary hearing, for the time being the facts alleged by the claimant must be assumed to be true'.
Roberts became a member of Wilsons, whose affairs are governed by a members' agreement, in May 2008. Roberts was the firm's managing partner, and compliance officer for legal practice, and for finance and administration. He also sat on the board. The judgment states that, in November 2014, the firm demanded that Roberts should resign as managing partner and voted to remove him from the post. Later, the firm removed him from his compliance officer roles.
In January 2015, Roberts wrote to the firm claiming it had repudiated the members' agreement, and stated that he accepted the repudiatory breaches. He gave it one month's notice of termination of his membership, saying the firm's conduct towards him made his continued membership intolerable. In February 2015, the firm rejected his notice, informing him they expected him to return to work. Roberts did not and was expelled in April 2015.
Roberts brought proceedings in the employment tribunal claiming compensation for detriments suffered by him as a worker as a result of the making of protected disclosures pursuant to section 47b of the Employment Rights Act 1996. In March 2016, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the employment tribunal was not entitled to strike out Roberts' compensation claim 'without hearing evidence, or making any findings of fact'.
Singh dismissed the firm's appeal. Lady Justice Hallett and Lord Justice Longmore agreed. Sitting alone at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday, Singh ordered the firm to pay Roberts' costs summarily assessed in the sum of £15,000 including VAT. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused.
Wilsons Solicitors said in a statement: 'The case is ongoing and we will continue to defend it vigorously.'