In this case, the EAT upheld a tribunal's decision to revoke a restricted reporting order after tribunal claims had been settled and withdrawn.
CA was employed by RA and RB to provide hairdressing services to RC. CA was dismissed and brought claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination claims against RA, RB and RC. The claims included allegations of sexual misconduct.
On the application of RA, RB and RC, an employment judge made a temporary restricted reporting order ("RRO"), so that the press was restricted in reporting the case. A settlement was subsequently reached between CA and RA, RB and RC, and CA's solicitor requested that the claim be withdrawn. News Group Newspapers Ltd. applied for the RRO to be revoked or discharged, so that it could report on the case. It also argued that, in light of the withdrawal of the claim, the RRO no longer had effect. All the parties (including the former employee) opposed this application.
The tribunal judge held that:
- the tribunal could still consider and determine an application by the press to vary or revoke an RRO, even after the claim has been withdrawn;
- the RRO had not automatically expired when the claim was withdrawn; and
- the RRO should be revoked.
The parties appealed these points.
Contrasting current tribunal rules with earlier rules, the EAT agreed with the employment tribunal on each of the above points. This decision is being appealed to the Court of Appeal, and pending the appeal, an interim RRO is in place.
What does this mean for employers?
The wish to avoid publicity is often a driver for employers when settling claims. This case demonstrates that there is a risk that, even where a claim has been withdrawn and the claimant has agreed to confidentiality provisions, the press can apply for reporting restrictions to be lifted and, in spite of the settlement, the employer may suffer reputational damage. To preserve privacy, employers may end up having to take the alternative route of seeking a High Court injunction.