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Employment Law

Legal guidance - compliance - software

Veale Wasborough Vizards , 29 FEB 2016

The use of Dropbox fails to validly lodge appeal documents

The use of Dropbox fails to validly lodge appeal documents
Lorna Scully
Senior Associate, Veale Wasbrough Vizards

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed that the use of online file sharing service Dropbox did not validly serve a notice of appeal.

The facts

In Majekodunmi v City Facilities Management UK Litd, Mr Majekodunmi oringinally brought claims for race discrimination, victimisation and public interest disclosure against his employer.

His claims were struck out by the Employment Tribunal (ET) and a written judgment was issued. A minor typographical error in the ET judgment meant a certificate of correction was subsequently sent out 15 days after the judgment.

Mr Majekodunmi wished to appeal the decision, which can be done by serving a Notice of Appeal and certain mandatory supporting documents on the EAT within 42 days of the judgment that is being appealed.

On the penultimate day of the deadline for appeal, Mr Majekodunmi's representative, a law graduate, emailed the Notice of Appeal and some of the mandatory supporting documents to the EAT. On the final day to appeal, Mr Majekodunmi's representative sent a further email to the EAT providing the remaining supporting documents via a link to a zip file on Dropbox.

The EAT replied to the email on the same day stating that this form of delivery did not suffice, and asking for the documents to be resent as attachments. Mr Majekodunmi's representative did not respond.

Several days later, Mr Majekodunmi's representative sent the documents again, this time in an acceptable format, but the Registrar rejected the appeal on the basis that it was out of time.

Mr Majekodunmi appealed the Registrar's decision, arguing:

  • that the appeal had been submitted in time, on the basis that the 42-day period for appeal had restarted when the certificate of correction had been issued
  • that the provision of documents via a link to a Dropbox zip file had acheived valid service
The decision

The EAT dismissed Mr Majekodunmi's appeal. The EAT held that the certificate of correction did not reset the time period to appeal. Confirming an already established principle, it held that the only time a correction would do so is when a correction is issued by way of a fresh judgment.

The EAT judge rejected the argument that appeal documents could be validly served via Dropbox. The EAT guidance makes it very clear that providing external links to documents does not amount to valid service.

The judge reasoned that this is because, while email attachments are received by the EAT once it receives the email, the provision of a link to documents stored on a cloud-based storage website requires the EAT to have internet access and to follow the link to another location in order to access those documents. Accordingly, the judge concluded that, as the documents in this case did not 'hit' the server as an attachment would, they could not be considered validly served.

Best practice

The EAT takes a notoriously strict approach to such matters and, given that the guidance is already very clear on the issue of electronic service of documents, the EAT's decision seems sensible and unsurprising.

However, the decision emphasises the importance of checking the guidance and ensuring documents are filed in the correct form, and in good time, to prevent appeals being rejected.
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