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12.11.2020 / News / Press releases /

Major London law firm Vardags loses High Court battle to ‘gag’ former employee in ‘tacky or tarty’ dress code row

Trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) has declared victory following its member’s successful “High Court showdown” over an attempt by one of the country’s top divorce law firms to “gag” a former employee accused of leaking a memo in which female staff were reminded that they could dress ‘discreetly sexy’, but ‘never tarty’.

The High Court battle saw the firm Vardags apply for an interim injunction and costs of £68,000, along with an order requiring the ex-employee to provide certain information within 24 hours. Vardags even sought to have the application heard in secret but on all these points their position was rejected by the Court.

UVW members from the union’s Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU) branch had taken on the case pro bono, and beat the far more well-resourced firm. Her legal team is also helping her pursue an Employment Tribunal claim against Vardags which alleges disability discrimination by the firm, culminating in her dismissal in March 2020. Her legal team says that they will now “continue to fight for just compensation” in the Employment Tribunal claim.

Disappointingly, in a press release issued late last night, Vardags chose to impugn the conduct of the LSWU member who had taken the case on pro bono in his capacity as a solicitor, and for whose work the High Court Judge expressed his gratitude. Vardags’ press release also criticised UVW and made assertions about its activities.

Petros Elia who sits on the union’s executive committee, responded by saying: “Vardags has chosen to impugn our legitimate trade union activities in defending and promoting the interests of our members. They and other bosses in and beyond the legal sector should be in no doubt that we will continue to do so, and we are considering our options in relation to Vardags’ public statement.”

Zachary Whyte, of Montague Solicitors and LSWU member representing the employee, said the following: “This victory is a demonstration to powerful employers that we will not allow them to use their finances and the legal process to gain an advantage over employees they have dismissed. We will now do everything to win our member the compensation she deserves. There is power in a union and I would encourage everyone in the legal sector who is in a non-managerial position to join LSWU today”.

Isaac Ricca-Richardson, an LSWU organiser, also said the following: “Our member’s shocking experience reflects a problem across the legal sector – of firms prioritising profits over junior workers and ex-workers. Our message is clear: bosses are now on notice, we will do whatever it takes to defend our members.”

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Editors notes

Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU) is part of the trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) and organises all workers throughout the legal sector, including paralegals, solicitors, administrative staff, clerks, and barristers. Those experiencing similar problems in their workplace can contact LSWU/UVW on legalsector@uvwunion.org.uk or @LSWUnited on Twitter, to discuss the matter in the strictest of confidence.

Vardags’ former employee was represented in the High Court by Zachary Whyte of MontagueSolicitors. Michael Sprack was instructed counsel.

For more information or quotes please contact:

– Kane Shaw, Press Officer, tel. 07950 927798 email. kane@uvwunion.org.u

– Isaac Ricca-Richardson, LSWU Press Officer, tel. 079397 789696 email. isaac@uvwunion.org.uk

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Major London law firm Vardags loses High Court battle to ‘gag’ former employee in ‘tacky or tarty’ dress code row

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