Company director fired after divorcing colleague was victim of marital discrimination

A woman who was fired from her role as company director after her divorce from another employee, was the victim of marital discrimination, an employment tribunal has ruled.


The claimant was subjected to marital discrimination and victimisation by the managing director of a small business, after he dismissed her in 2018 for an alleged IT breach. The tribunal unanimously ruled the dismissal was for discriminatory reasons based on the claimant ending her relationship with another director.


The tribunal said the MD had “no other explanation” for subjecting her to less favourable treatment because of her marital status “other than he was siding with her ex-husband.”

The day after the claimant informed her husband that she wanted to divorce her position was advertised and she was removed from the position of director and her name was taken off the list at Companies House without her permission.


She was suspended on full pay pending an investigation into the misuse of company IT, email systems and confidential and financial information. There were no specific allegations against her in the letter in which she was suspended, but she was asked to return personal IT equipment including an iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, company files and documentation.


The Police were asked to investigate an alleged cyber breach, unauthorised access to the office email and sending of company information to the claimant’s personal email. However, following an investigation, the police indicated that no further action was to be taken.


She was subsequently dismissed for alleged gross misconduct. She brought claims of unfair dismissal, failure to pay notice and holiday pay and discrimination based on sex, marriage and civil partnership to the Employment Tribunal.


The employment judge said it was not difficult for the tribunal to unanimously conclude that the MD “distanced himself” from the claimant following her separation from her husband. He added that the MD was “complicit” with the claimant’s husband in urging the police to investigate her, and that he believed everything he was told “without question”.


Marital discrimination cases are relatively uncommon unusual despite the fact many people work in the same organisation as their partner but many large organisations will have ‘relationships at work’ policies to make sure members of staff who are in a relationship behave in an appropriate and professional manner both during and after the relationship ends.


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