Sophie Garner

Introduction

Sophie is an experienced specialist in employment and discrimination law, whose work encompasses cases in the Employment Tribunal, the EAT, professional disciplinary tribunals, and the County or High Court.  Recognised by the directories as being “very knowledgeable” and “quick to win a client’s confidence”, Sophie’s personable manner and tenacity are characteristics that are appreciated by her lay and professional clients

She also covers all aspects of restraint of trade and directorial disputes, and she is adept at disentangling the governance disputes between directors/trustees and senior executive employees that can lead to conflict in both corporate and voluntary sector organisations. She has experience of appearing before a number of regulatory bodies including the GMC and NCTL.

As well as the usual range of discrimination cases in the employment tribunal, Sophie’s practice extends to cover discrimination claims in the county court, such as discrimination in the provision of goods and services, education, and clubs and associations.

Sophie lectures regularly on employment and discrimination law and was called to give evidence on behalf of the Discrimination Law Association in November 2012 to the Select Committee on Women in the Workplace.

She has extensive experience of voluntary work as a director and charity trustee and won the Birmingham Law Society’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award in 2019. She successfully was also nominated as one of the Attorney General’s “Pro Bono Heroes” for 2009. Sophie is Vice-Chair of the Midland Circuit Women’s Forum.

Sophie is also a member of St Philips Business and Property Group (Restraint of Trade).

Recent Cases:

A sample of cases showing Sophie’s typical work:

  • Advising and representing a consultant against an NHS Trust on a claim of whistleblowing at a 10 day hearing
  • Advised and represented a local authority in a long running (five year) series of claims by a litigant in person involving a number of substantive hearings (the longest being 34 days) involving claims of race and disability discrimination.
  • Advising and representing a woman who had been unlawfully expelled from a Sports Club after complaining of discrimination against women members.
  • Representing a head teacher, based at a Muslim school, on a 10 day hearing before the NCTL and a subsequent five day ET hearing;
  • Advising an international sales representative of the applicability of restrictive covenants in the light of an impending injunction hearing.
  • Representing a female professional pilot during a lengthy capability/disciplinary process with counter allegations of discrimination.
  • Successfully represented a corporate accountant in a claim of sex (pregnancy) discrimination and detriment in relation to a request to work flexibly. Included a fully contested remedy hearing.
  • Complex TUPE matter involving allegations of fragmentation of assets amongst numerous subsidiaries in order to defeat the application of the regulations. Despite numerous setbacks and delaying tactics on the part of the putative transferee, a successful settlement was finally achieved.
  • Advising a charity as to whether action could be taken in relation to discrimination by a religious place of worship or whether the provisions of Schedule 23 to the Equality Act 2010 applied.

Voluntary Activities:

Sophie won the Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award from Birmingham Law Society in 2019.

She is Vice Chair of the Midland Circuit Women’s Forum and is on the retention panel of the Bar’s Equality and Diversity Committee, dealing with the issues surrounding the retention of women in the profession and harassment. She recently drafted the Bar Council’s harassment training, and works on initiatives to address the underreporting of harassment in the profession.

Sophie was co-founder and is now a patron of Amicus, the legal human rights charity, and was appointed in 2016 as a Trustee for the Muslim Women’s Network UK.  She has set up and runs a separate charity that deals with issues of community cohesion.

Sophie was successfully nominated as one of the Law Society’s “Pro Bono Heroes” for 2009.


Employment

Sophie has specialised in employment and discrimination law since 2001. Her current practice involves employment cases of a more complex nature including discrimination claims; equal pay claims, whistleblowing claims; TUPE disputes; industrial relations; directors’ disputes; and cases where multiple parties or senior executives/directors are involved. Sophie’s advocacy work is generally made up of multi-day hearings in the Tribunal and she regularly appears in the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Her clients come from all sectors and she represents both claimants and respondents. Many of her respondent clients have
been large public sector employers e.g. probation trusts, local authorities, NHS trusts, police authorities and educational
institutions.

Sophie represents also represents clients before professional misconduct tribunals.

Recent Cases

A sample of cases showing Sophie’s typical work:

  • Successfully defended a school and local authority in a 34 day race discrimination claim, and a subsequent 10 day unfair dismissal claim.
  • Advising and representing a consultant against an NHS Trust on a claim of whistleblowing at a 10 day hearing
  • Successfully represented a corporate accountant in a claim of sex (pregnancy) discrimination and detriment in relation to a request to work flexibly. Included a contested remedy hearing.
  • Complex TUPE matter involving allegations of fragmentation of assets amongst numerous subsidiaries in order to defeat the application of the regulations. Despite numerous setbacks and delaying tactics on the part of the putative transferee, a successful settlement was finally achieved.
  • Successfully argued a foster carer was ‘in employment’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 arguing European legislation in support of the contention that the Court of Appeal authority on the Employment Rights Act should not be applied across to the comparable discrimination legislation.
  • Advised on the rights of an employer where in connection with threatened strike action in relation to the legality of the strike, injunctive relief and control of striking employees.

Employment in the High Court

Sophie has been described by the Legal 500 as someone who is “technically strong and client friendly” with the
ability to “get the grips with the detail of a difficult issue”.  She has the skills and experience necessary to give sound strategic and tactical advice to clients in commercial employment disputes.

Her commercial practice covers restraint of trade and directorial disputes, and she uses her additional knowledge of
corporate structure and governance – as a professionally qualified company secretary – to help disentangle the governance disputes between directors/trustees and senior executive employees that can often lead to conflict in both corporate and voluntary sector organisations.

Recent Cases:

  • Representing an international sales rep of a large organisation supplying the automotive trade as to the applicability of his restrictive covenants.
  • Successfully representing an IT sales company through interlocutory relief applications and resolution of dispute following breach by two employees of pre and post termination restrictions.
  • Advising and representing a senior executive at a university in relation to the terms of a settlement package whilst disciplinary charges still outstanding.

Discrimination

Sophie’s main interest lies in the field of discrimination law and she has substantial experience in representing both claimant and respondents in this field. She is able to bring a solid knowledge of discrimination law and practice and combine it with her extensive experience of representing a wide variety of individuals and organisations in relation to discrimination issues.

Recent, typical, cases include a 10 day unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claim; an EAT claim about the interpretation of s.15 (discrimination because of something arising as a consequence of disability); the application of the Equality Act 2010 to a non-typical category of employee using European law; an EAT claim relating to the applicability of equal pay and sex discrimination legislation to a woman employed outside of the UK; and a disability discrimination claim involving full career loss

Recent notable county claims have included advising and representing a woman expelled from a sporting club following her well founded accusations that the club’s constitution was in breach of the Equality Act; and advising and representing parents who have alleged discrimination by schools against their disabled children.

As well as dealing with the usual range of tribunal and High Court employment related work, Sophie also has
experience of administrative law where it involves employment or discrimination related issues in the public sector and third sector disputes.


Mediation

Sophie completed her training with CEDR in 2000 and with ADR Group in 2009. From 2011 she has held the additional
qualification of workplace mediator.

Her experience as a general civil and commercial practitioner for the first ten years as a barrister has given her the background necessary to be at ease in dealing with all types of contractual or commercial case, and with her employment/workplace expertise she is particularly suited to cases involving the breakdown of working relationships or where there have been grievances or allegations of harassment or discrimination between employees. Sophie also acts as mediator advocate.

Recent Mediations:

  • Workplace mediation between two senior local authority employees embroiled in an ongoing dispute with grievances and counter-grievances
  • Mediation between senior manager and former employer on the settlement of a high court employment dispute

Published Journals

Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (2016) UKEAT/0100/16 & 0101/16/LA – represented the Respondent in this appeal brought by an ET claimant against a £110,000 order for costs against him, and on the issue of whether his mental health condition amounted to a disability.

Greco v Ms D Greco v General Physics UK Ltd (2016) UKEAT/0114/16/DM – Successfully defended this appeal against the ET’s decision to dismiss a claim of sex discrimination. Grounds of appeal related to adequacy of reasons and bias and the enforceability of s.111A (pre-termination discussions) – see article here.

Pnaiser v NHS England and Coventry City Council [2016] IRLR 170 – Disability discrimination – s.15 ‘discrimination because of something arising from disability’. Guidance given on the burden of proof at each stage of the s.15 analysis.

Governing Body of St Michael’s Church of England Junior and Infant School v Smith (2014) UKEAT/0165/14/KN – appeal on the grounds of apparent bias against the ET’s finding that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed. Appeal successful.

Simpson v Intralinks [2012] I.L.Pr. 34; [2012] Eq. L.R. 732 (EAT) – Employee brought claim in UK Tribunal under German contract of employment. EAT considered the allocation of jurisdiction under conflict of laws in cases with overseas employees, where sex discrimination and equal pay claims made.

Owens v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council [2011] I.C.R. 453 (CA) – determination by the Court of Appeal of whether a counsellor working in education qualified as a teacher under the Teachers Pension Scheme.

Mr D Chambers & 8 Others v QCR Motors Ltd (In Voluntary Liquidation), ADAC Paintbox Ltd (2010) UKEAT/0545/09/MW – TUPE matter: time limit for presentation of claim where date of transfer had been disputed.

Education

LLB Hons (1989)
ACIS (2002)

Appointments and Memberships

Accredited Commercial Mediator: CEDR (2000), ADR Group (2009)
Accredited Workplace Mediator, Globis (2011)
Patron of ‘Amicus’ Charity since 2012
Discrimination Law Association
Employment Lawyers Association
Employment Law Bar Association
Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries

Testimonials

"Responsive and extremely thorough." Legal 500 2020
"Very knowledgeable and accessible." Legal 500
"Quick to win a client’s confidence." Legal 500
"A specialist in discrimination law." Legal 500
"A very capable and effective advocate." Legal 500
"Client friendly" with the ability to "get to grips with the detail of a difficult issue." Legal 500
"Technically strong and client friendly." Legal 500