Mulberry wins confidentiality agreement dispute with employee

The fashion house Mulberry has successfully defended a discrimination claim from a former employee who was dismissed after refusing to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The case involved designer Anna Gray, who had access to some of Mulberry’s designs ahead of their launch to market.

She was dismissed after she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Mulberry believed that by refusing to sign, she intended to copy some of its products.

Gray said that she had refused to sign because she believed the agreement could extend to her artistic activities as a writer/filmmaker away from work. She brought a claim of discrimination on the basis that there was a "statutory human or moral right to own the copyright and moral rights of her own creative works and output, except when that creative work or output is produced on behalf of an employer".

She submitted this amounted to a "philosophical belief" for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 s.10(2).

The Employment Tribunal found against her on the grounds that this was not a philosophical belief that was capable of protection under the 2010 Act.

It rejected her claim of direct discrimination on the basis that her dismissal was due to her failure to sign the agreement and not because of her philosophical beliefs, of which the employer had no knowledge.

It also dismissed her claim of indirect discrimination on the basis that the provision, criterion or practice (PCP) in question, namely the requirement to sign the agreement or be dismissed, was not shown to have put other persons sharing her belief at a disadvantage. It also found that, in any case, the defence of justification under s.19(2)(d) of the Act applied.

The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the tribunal’s decision.

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