Greycoat Executive Has Case Dismissed and Ordered to Pay Legal Costs After She Helped Boss Have an Affair

In Mrs Anna Prior v Greycoat Real Estate LLP and Mr Nick Millican, a Greycoat executive has been ordered to pay the legal costs of her claim. This comes after the tribunal learned she helped her boss have an affair, offering her advice. Below, we explore what happened in the case and what the tribunal said. 

The Facts in Mrs Anna Prior v Greycoat Real Estate LLP and Mr Nick Millican

Background – Greycoat Executive Helps Boss Have an Affair

Mrs Anna Prior (“The Claimant”) became a partner of Greycoat Real Estate LLP (“The Respondent”) on 1 April 2018. She was the first female partner in the real estate business, with Mr Nick Millican as their CEO.

In August 2018, the Greycoat executive hired a female, known only as ‘CH’, as her assistant. Then, towards the end of 2018, Mr Nick Millican began a romantic relationship with CH despite being married with children. Knowing about the affair, the claimant would discuss the relationship with them and offer her advice.

For example, on 1 January 2019, she told him a family breakup was part of the “rich tapestry of life”. She also arranged for her husband to meet up with the CEO to discuss the difficulties of leaving his wife. This was because her husband had previously been through a similar circumstance.

The Affair Ends

However, Mr Nick Millican ended the relationship with CH in early January and asked to meet the claimant. At such time, her husband said, “I see this as an opportunity for you to gain more power with him”. 

CH went on holiday following the breakup and was due to return to the office on 24 January. But before her return, the CEO messaged the claimant, explaining he didn’t think it was a good idea for CH to come back. As such, the Greycoat executive facilitated CH’s departure on 28 January under a without prejudice settlement agreement.

Then in February, CH messaged the CEO, informing him that she was pregnant and was going to have an abortion. However, the CEO was sceptical and asked the claimant to phone the clinic to see if they undertook abortions.

Anna Prior Had An Incident at the Pub with the CEO

In October 2019, the claimant met the CEO at a pub and discussed the respondent’s maternity leave entitlements for partners. Subsequently, the claimant messaged her husband, explaining she’d receive full maternity leave on full pay for as long as she desired.

Sometime later, on 11 November 2019, the claimant again met the CEO at the pub. This time, he’d been there for several hours and was intoxicated. He touched her knee and discussed ‘what could have been’ between them. Immediately, she removed his hand and quickly moved the conversation along.

The Greycoat Executive Becomes Pregnant

On 16 March, the Greycoat executive met with the CEO, informing him she was pregnant. Months later, on 1 October, the claimant had her baby and began maternity leave. The respondent attempted to uncover when the claimant would return on several occasions, but each time, they were unsuccessful. This was because some of the respondent’s partners had financial concerns during COVID-19 and wanted the claimant to return to lend a hand. Despite this, the claimant wanted to take her full leave entitlement and return to her original role part-time.

At the same time, throughout early 2021, the respondent considered an external investment to combat the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. This involved a restructuring, where the claimant would be moved to a different part of the business. The CEO relayed this to the claimant; however, she wasn’t happy about the news.

In response, on 24 August, the CEO explained she could remain in her current role full-time or go part-time in the proposed new role. Whilst the claimant decided on her position, there was an agreed ‘pause’ on her partnership. This meant she didn’t have to resign but received no profit shares until she decided what to do.

Anna Prior’s Settlement Agreement Negotiations Breakdown

On 9 February 2022, the claimant’s husband met with the CEO, discussing how they’d treated his wife. He suggested the respondent wouldn’t want to gain a bad reputation concerning the treatment of women. However, the CEO claimed he didn’t know what the claimant’s husband was talking about and asked him to expand further. 

Following discussions, they agreed on terms whereby the Greycoat executive would leave with a payout. Despite this, the CEO clarified this was subject to board approval. Following discussions with the board, a letter was sent to the claimant on 17 February with amended, less favourable terms.

The claimant’s husband wasn’t happy about the amendments and emailed the CEO. Then, on 21 February, the claimant rejected the respondent’s offer, stating she’d commended ACAS early conciliation for discrimination a week later.

Subsequently, the respondent’s solicitor informed the claimant’s solicitor that a decision had to be made concerning her position. If no decision were communicated by 25 March, they would assume she didn’t want to return. The claimant’s solicitor responded, stating that neither role was satisfactory and wanted to know why she couldn’t return to her previous role part-time.

No response was given to this query, and since no decision was communicated by the deadline, the respondent’s solicitor assumed she didn’t want to return. As a result, the Greycoat executive claimed to an employment tribunal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The employment tribunal stated that, due to time limits, they didn’t have the jurisdiction to make judgments on several claims. These included:

  • Direct sex discrimination concerning the claimant and the CEO about his relationship with CH.
  • Sexual harassment involving the CEO on the 11 November 2019 incident in the pub.
  • Direct maternity discrimination regarding the CEO’s proposal of the claimant’s new role.

In each case, the tribunal explained there had been considerable delays in bringing a claim. The earliest was three years out of time, while the closest was five months late.

When questioned about these delays, the Greycoat executive claimed she was fearful about impacting her career prospects with them. However, the tribunal disagreed, understanding she was an intelligent, university-educated woman who knew the claims weren’t worth pursuing.

Moreover, the tribunal ruled the CEO would have provided options concerning her position during the restructuring, regardless of the circumstances. The same went for making her a “passive member” whilst she made a decision. Her maternity leave had no bearing on the decision, meaning discrimination didn’t occur.

Finally, the tribunal concluded the claimant acted voluntarily during the affair, helping the CEO and offering advice. As such, they held none of her claims had any merit and ordered her to pay the case’s legal costs. They also capped the costs recoverable by the respondent at £225,000.

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