17 July 2020

Tribunal confirms Varnish is not a British Cycling or UK Sport employee

Jess Varnish’s appeal against a January 2019 Employment Tribunal finding that she was not an employee of British Cycling or UK Sport has not been upheld. In its full judgment (PDF below), the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the January 2019 tribunal ‘was entitled to conclude, based on an evaluative judgment taking account of all relevant factors, that the Claimant was not an employee or a worker’.

Varnish launched legal action against British Cycling and UK Sport in 2017, after former British Cycling Technical Director Shane Sutton revealed that her contract would not be renewed in a newspaper interview. This prompted Varnish to make allegations of sexism in an interview with the Daily Mail, supported by Beijing 2008 gold medal winner Nicole Cooke and by London 2012 gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton. Paralympic cyclist Darren Kenny also told the Daily Mail that Sutton had made disparaging remarks about para-cyclists. 

British Cycling and UK Sport launched an investigation in April 2016, and by October rejected eight of nine allegations of sexism against Sutton. However, Varnish did not discover these details until December of that year, when she instructed her solicitors to appeal. In October 2016, British Cycling announced that it had ‘upheld an allegation made by Jess Varnish that former Technical Director Shane Sutton had used inappropriate and discriminatory language’.

Varnish has previously outlined that the purpose of her legal action was not to win her case, but to effect change. ‘I knew at the beginning of the tribunal, no matter the outcome, that I had already won’, she wrote in January 2019. ‘Since I first spoke out in April 2016 about my experience at British Cycling, significant change has taken place […] I’m glad that British Cycling, through their own internal, but never published, investigation, confirmed that I had been subjected to discrimination. I’m also glad that through this process they accepted they hadn’t paid sufficient care and attention to the wellbeing of athletes and that the handling of my case had been inept.’

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