US Sovereign Immunity Upheld by Employment Tribunals

4 November, 2019

In the cases of Mrs A Webster v The United States of America, Cases 3327693/2017 and 3302985/2018, Employment Tribunal Judgment (2019) and Miss C Wright v The United States of America, Case 3303862/2018, Employment Tribunal Judgment (2019), a UK Employment Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) ruled that the common law doctrine of State immunity applied such that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear claims by two UK nationals who were formerly employees of the US Airforce (“USAF”) working on military bases in the UK. Mrs Webster worked in the USAF records management department at a USAF base; while Miss Wright worked in the USAF fire and emergency service at several USAF bases.

In the cases of both Webster and Wright, Employment Judge Foxwell held that Mrs Webster and Ms Wright were by their employment engaged in the performance of the United States’ sovereign functions such that the principle of State immunity operated to deprive the Tribunal of its jurisdiction. As a separate and additional basis for the application of immunity, the Tribunal held that adjudicating the claims in relation to such sovereign functions would require the Tribunal to evaluate specific policies and objectives of the USA in the areas of record keeping and firefighting, and that in both cases such an enquiry is impermissible under the common law principle of State immunity.

Read the full judgment here.

Professor Dan Sarooshi QC and Andrew Legg appeared for the United States of America in these two cases. They were instructed by Robert Volterra and Maria Fogdestam-Agius of Volterra Fietta LLP and Michael Burd and Emma Delap of Lewis Silkin LLP.