An ex-partner suing her former firm for unfair dismissal has been refused access to grievance documents relating to former colleagues.
Helen Clifford applied last month at East London employment tribunal to ask for disclosure of all court proceedings, settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements drawn up since January 2018 by her former employer, south-east firm McMillan Williams.
In a reserved judgment published this week, employment judge Barrowclough ruled that Clifford should see only documents that are relevant to her case. He said the former head of personal injury did not need to prove a ‘pattern of behaviour’ or ‘change in culture’ as part of her claim and the specific disclosure application should be refused.
He also dismissed an application for witness orders relating to five former and current staff members at McMillan Williams, and refused an application to strike out the firm’s defence.
Clifford, who worked at the firm’s London Bridge office for three years until her resignation in September 2018, has brought complaints for constructive dismissal, being subject to a detriment for having made protected disclosures, harassment and victimisation.
During last month’s hearing, she alleged that the firm permitted sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying to become ‘endemic’ and that she was subject to bullying and harassment when she raised these issues at a partners’ meeting. She also alleges that a second respondent on the claim, chief executive Dominic Harrison, was ‘instrumental in permitting this state of affairs’.
During her submissions, Clifford alleged that the firm became an ‘old boys' club’, run by predominantly white, middle-aged and middle-class men who were determined to remove those who did not fit in. She told the tribunal this was dubbed ‘project snowflake’.
Clifford said she found it ‘heart-breaking’ to be fighting against her own firm when she sought to protect a female junior member of staff who reported she had been sexually harassed.
The firm had argued that disclosure should be ordered only when necessary. It had already disclosed 333 documents in addition to those initially disclosed. The further documents sought related to grievances and settlements that did not concern Clifford.
The matter is set for trial in January.