The Public Eye of The Employment Tribunal
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Saskia Musacchio
Following a series of recent judgments which has seen journalists acquire a greater right to access documents from employment tribunal cases, another ruling has found in favour of The Guardian.
Further to the case of Dimitri Rozanov v EFG Private Bank Limited; a case involving unfair dismissal in which Mr Rozanov claimed that he had been fired due to raising concerns about the bank’s compliance with anti-money-laundering practices and its enablement of a $100m deal for a client suspectedly connected to the Chechen politician Ramzan Kadyrov, The Guardian requested copies of documents mentioned in the judgment from the tribunal.
The application was initially refused on the basis that costs of transparency would be too onerous. However, on 5 April, the decision was reversed by the employment appeal tribunal. EFG Private Bank Limited was ordered to provide the requested documents to The Guardian at no cost. This was on the basis that the principle of open justice had to outweigh any inconvenience in the pursuit of gathering and providing the documentation requested by the journalist – particularly in a post-pandemic world where the digital trial bundle has become pervasive and administrative costs are minimal / non-existent. Justifying his reasoning, the judge ruled that “the press have an important role in reporting the judgments of courts and tribunals”. Noting the journalistic reason for accessing such documents, he further asserted that “it is in the public interest that they have the necessary information to be able to do so fairly and accurately”. Considering the perilous subject matter of the material in question, delivering open access to quality, truthful news provided a sufficiently strong case for the benefit of public interest, tipping the balance in favour of the journalist.
However, the ruling could have significant implications for both employers and employees. There is potential scope for the press to have access to extremely sensitive and potentially damaging internal documents referenced within the judgment, pertaining to the employer or employee depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, based on this finding, if a public tribunal judgment references evidence relied on by an employee to demonstrate discriminatory treatment in the workplace, the press could potentially apply to have such evidence disclosed. In this context, this finding could also impact settlement negotiations particularly if an employer or employee have reason to be apprehensive about potentially damaging evidence being referenced in the tribunal’s judgment. Finding a way to navigate such concerns should also now be a factor to consider for employers and employees when entering into settlement discussions.
If you have any further queries or would like further advice on the above, please feel free to contact a member of the Employment Team.