Why Status Matters

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The UK Court of Appeal recently decided that a law firm partner was not a “worker” of the firm. The partner could not, therefore, bring a whistleblowing claim against the firm after she was dismissed from the partnership following her disclosure that an associated law firm had engaged in bribery and money laundering. In the UK, employees and other “workers” benefit from protections against being subjected to a detriment if they make protected whistleblowing disclosures. The Court of Appeal decided that the partner was a genuine partner of the firm and, as such, was not a worker with consequential protections for blowing the whistle on the alleged misconduct.

Background -

Ms. Krista Bates van Winkelhof was a member of Clyde & Co LLP. She was held out to be a “partner”, as is common in law firms, even though the firm was a limited liability partnership (where individuals are members) rather than a general partnership (where individuals are partners). She was seconded to a Tanzanian joint venture partner of Clyde & Co LLP, Ako Law, at the relevant time of her claims. She was also employed locally by Ako Law as required under Tanzanian law. Ms. Bates van Winkelhof had the title of equity partner and was entitled to receive profit-related income and guaranteed income from the firm.

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