This morning’s media is awash with the news that a celebrity chef has - according to the sensationalist headlines - “won” a “gagging order” to prevent the press identifying all parties in a claim brought against him or her by two former employees. One of these is a woman claiming unfair dismissal, whistleblowing and sex discrimination. The other is, apparently, the male former chief executive of the chef’s company, who has brought claims for unfair dismissal, age discrimination and unpaid wages.
Rather unsurprisingly, outlets such as the Daily Mail and Express are (respectively) asserting that this is “the latest example of a major public figure remaining anonymous thanks to creeping privacy rulings by judges”, and that “the ban will fuel the outcry about the restrictions on freedom of speech in the growing number of super-injunctions granted to high profile figures”.
But let’s look behind the super-injunction-bandwagon headlines, starting with the legal position. It’s not entirely clear from the reports what sort of order has been made, but it appears to be a temporary restricted reporting order (RRO). Tribunals have the power and discretion to make this sort of order in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct (which seems to be the reason here) or disability discrimination cases involving evidence of a personal nature that might cause significant embarrassment to the claimant if reported.
The effect of an RRO is to prevent the identification of some or all of the parties involved in the proceedings. Here, it appears to cover all three parties. Maybe the sex discrimination allegations involve the male claimant in some way, or perhaps his identification would lead to the identities of the chef being revealed. A likely explanation for the RRO is that the case involves sensitive and personal facts and allegations, and the woman doesn’t want to be identified at this stage. Obviously, the chef is hardly going to contest such an application.
The media is obviously keen to portray this case as yet another example of a high profile personality getting their own way in the courts to protect their business and reputation. But I don’t think that’s the case here. The reports actually reveal that the female claimant herself applied, along with the chef, for the RRO (although it was resisted by the male claimant). Judging by the facts as reported, this simply isn’t comparable to the super-injunctions that have recently attracted so much adverse press. As I understand it, RROs cannot be made to protect the reputation of a company or a corporate body.