Cornelius v University College of Swansea: CA 1987

A college declined to act on an employee’s transfer request or to operate their grievance procedure while proceedings under the 1975 Act, brought by the employee against the college, were still awaiting determination. The college was trying to protect itself.
Held: An unjustified sense of grievance cannot amount to a detriment in discrimination law. The court recognised a distinction in an allegation of victimisation in a discrimination claim, between the commencement of proceedings and the continuance of proceedings, once commenced. The respondent had acted purely to protect its position in pending proceedings.
Bingham LJ: ‘There is no reason whatever to suppose that the decisions of the registrar and his senior assistant on the applicant’s requests for a transfer and a hearing under the grievance procedure were influenced in any way by the facts that the appellant had brought proceedings or that those proceedings were under the Act. The existence of proceedings plainly did influence their decisions. No doubt, like most experienced administrators, they recognised the risk of acting in a way which might embarrass the handling or be inconsistent with the outcome of current proceedings. They accordingly wished to defer action until the proceedings were over. But that had nothing whatever to do with the appellant’s conduct in bringing proceedings under the Act. There is no reason to think that their decision would have been different whoever had brought the proceedings or whatever their nature, if the subject matter was allied. If the appellant was victimised, it is not shown to have been because of her reliance on the Act’.’


Sir John Donaldson MR, Fox and Bingham UJ


[1987] IRLR 141, [1995] IRLR 87, [1988] ICR 785


Sex Discrimination Act 1975


England and Wales

Cited by:

ApprovedChief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Khan HL 11-Oct-2001
The claimant was a police sergeant. After many years he had not been promoted. He began proceedings for race discrimination. Whilst those were in course, he applied for a post elsewhere. That force wrote to his own requesting a reference. In the . .
CitedSt Helens Metroploitan Borough Council v Derbyshire and others CA 29-Jul-2005
The employees commenced a series of sex discrimination claims against the appellant. Many had settled, and the council wrote directly to the remaining claimants. The claimants said this amounted to intimidation because the council had not gone . .
CitedSt Helens Borough Council v Derbyshire and others HL 25-Apr-2007
The claimants were pursuing an action for equal pay. Several others settled their own actions, and the respondents then wrote direct to the claimants expressing their concern that the action ws being continued and its possible effects. The claimants . .
CitedPothecary Witham Weld (A Firm) and Another v Bullimore and Another EAT 29-Mar-2010
Ex-employee given unfavourable reference – Claim that terms of reference were partly on account of her having previously brought . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 05 August 2022; Ref: scu.181192