A former partner has failed in attempt to bring a discrimination claim against an international firm in England & Wales after the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) said the events in question took place in France and should be heard there.
Upholding a tribunal judgment, in a ruling published on 12 April the EAT said: ‘The employment judge [at first instance] had not erred in deciding that claims for equal pay, direct sex and race discrimination, and victimisation, brought by a French lawyer against a UK based international law firm and one of its partners, should be adjudicated in France not England.’
Former Simmons & Simmons partner Noro-Lanto Ravisy was an equity partner at the firm’s Paris office between 2013 and 2016. The claim submits she was subjected to enforced retirement in December 2016. Ravisy claimed the firm did not fairly allocate work to women and that her forced retirement constituted race and sex discrimination. She also brought an equal pay claim.
Simmons & Simmons disputes the claims.
The judge at first instance, His Honour Judge Simon Auerbach, said Ravisy did not have a strong enough connection to the UK. According to the judgment, Auerbach J noted that whilst she made visits to the London office every few months, in connection with her work, Ravisy herself accepted that these visits were ‘ad hoc, infrequent, and generally short'.
Auerbach J said the presumption should be against jurisdiction unless there is something which puts the case in an ‘exceptional category’ such as the employment having much stronger connections with UK employment law than with any other jurisdiction.
The tribunal heard that each Simmons & Simmons partner filed a personal tax return and paid tax in the jurisdiction of their domicile by reference to their respective profit shares and own circumstances, while the firm itself paid tax in each jurisdiction where it had a presence.
On appeal, the honorable Mr Justice Tim Kerr said he would have come to the same conclusion. ‘The judge’s close analysis of the detailed facts and his weighing in the scales of the features pointing to, respectively, England and France, fully justified his conclusion that the balance comes down firmly on the French side,’ Kerr wrote. He added: ‘The case should be regarded as one where the claimant worked outside Great Britain. The occasional visits to London rightly counted for little.’
Simmons & Simmons declined to comment.