Extent of Liability for Loss – Thaine v London School of Economics

Miss Thaine was employed by the London School of Economics (“LSE”) as a painter and decorator in the maintenance department and was the only women amongst the department’s 18 employees. She began to suffer from psychiatric health problems, which prevented her from continuing to work for LSE, and led to her dismissal.

Miss Thaine brought claims of sexual discrimination, disability discrimination and unfair dismissal against LSE, and succeeded in two of the claims of sexual discrimination. It was found that the sexually discriminatory treatment Miss Thaine had suffered at work was a “material and effective cause” of her psychiatric illness, and there was a sufficient “causal link” between the discrimination she suffered and her subsequent ill-health and loss of earnings.

When determining the amount of compensation Miss Thaine was entitled to however, there were found to be “concurrent causes” of her ill-health, which were not the result of the treatment she had suffered at work. These included her obsessive compulsive disorder, previous depressive episodes, the break-up of her relationship with her boyfriend, and her mother’s ill-health.

The compensatory award Miss Thaine was entitled to was reduced by 60% to reflect the extent to which the “concurrent causes” of her ill-health, for which LSE were not liable, contributed to her developing her illness.

Miss Thaine unsuccessfully appealed, arguing that no such deduction should be made. The Employment Appeal Tribunal stated that LSE’s conduct made it liable “only to the extent” to which its conduct had resulted in Miss Thaine’s ill-health, and that “common sense” should be exercised in determining the level of reduction of the award.

Importantly for business leaders, the Employment Appeal Tribunal saw fit to state that if an employer did not raise the argument that it was liable to an employee only to the extent of its contribution to their loss, it could be found to liable in full.


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Filed under Case Law Update, Discrimination in the work place

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