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Sacked air base workers told they can not take US government to court

RAF Lakenheath, where Mrs Webster worked  Picture: Submitted

RAF Lakenheath, where Mrs Webster worked Picture: Submitted

Archant

Two women who worked on US military bases, who claim they were wrongly dismissed, have been told their cases can not be heard by an employment tribunal.

Anthea Webster, of Beck Row, worked at RAF Lakenheath. Court papers say she started work on the base as an office assistant in December 2011 and was dismissed in October 2017.

Mrs Webster's claim states she suffers from complex regional pain syndrome which means she is classed as disabled.

A month before her dismissal, she claimed she had been subjected to unlawful sex, race, age and disability discrimination and had suffered an unauthorised deduction from her wages.

Employment judge Foxwell heard Mrs Webster's claim against United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) with that of another woman, Caroline Wright.

Miss Wright worked as a firefighter at RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire, from May, 2013 until January, 2018.

Miss Wright claimed sex and disability discrimination to the tribunal. Her claim said this followed being diagnosed with epilepsy in early 2017.

Court papers say she also submitted a second claim, alleging constructive unfair dismissal.

Civilian personnel on US bases were formerly employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and assigned to work for USAFE.

But in 2010, the US military decided to shift from engaging workers through the MoD to hiring them directly.

Staff recruited in this way were called "local national direct hires" and both claimants were taken on under this policy.

The judge found that state immunity applied to the case, adding: "State immunity, where it applies, means that the sovereign acts of a state cannot be adjudicated upon by the courts of another state, which must dismiss the claim without determining its merits.

"This principle does not affect any right a claimant may have to pursue the claim in the courts of the foreign respondent state itself."

The judgement adds: "The fact that Mrs Webster is a British citizen, working in the United Kingdom and paying UK taxes, does not change the identity of her employer.

"I have reached the same conclusion in Miss Wright's case, albeit she performed a very different role from Mrs Webster."

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