In this case, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found three incidents of sexual harassment occurred, and (following an Employment Tribunal Appeal – EAT) an award in excess of £55,000 was made to the Claimant. The summary below, highlights how personal relationships at work, bringing emotional feelings into work, and failing to control frustration and showing a temper at work, all led to this very expensive outcome.
The Claimant, with a successful career in the recruitment industry, joined Timothy James, a smaller business. The Claimant had previously had a personal relationship with a director, Mr O’Connell.
Pressure built up which led to several incidents occurring involving Mr O’Connell, including the Claimant being subjected to “a tirade of criticism” in front of colleagues, being shouted at and having a pen thrown at her after asking for time to consider the implications of a document she was being asked to sign, and being described as “a green eyed monster”. This comment was made with regard to alleged jealousy of another female colleague with whom Mr O’Connell had now formed a relationship. Ultimately the Claimant left and claimed constructive dismissal.
The ET decided that the treatment meted out to the Claimant was because she had previously had a relationship with Mr O’Connell. It was therefore related to the protected characteristic of her sex. The ET found three such incidents of sexual harassment.
In their summary, the original ET stated they found the Claimant to be a “convincing and credible witness.” In contrast it recorded that it found Mr O’Connell to be “an evasive witness, totally lacking credibility.” It made similar comments about his evidence.
In the ET’s Remedy Judgement the Respondent was ordered to pay the Claimant in respect of unfair dismissal a basic award, in the sum of £2,250, and a compensatory award, in the sum of £450. Secondly, the Respondent was ordered to pay the Claimant wages due, in the sum of £1,872.60 gross. Thirdly, the Respondent was ordered to pay the Claimant damages for injury to feelings of £10,000, which were grossed up for tax reasons to £16,666, together with interest in the sum of £89.24. The Respondent was also ordered to pay the Claimant in respect of financial loss, in the sum of £40,394.85, together with interest in the sum of £107.25. Although at Appeal the grossing up of the injury feelings element was removed, adding it all up this payment still comes around £55,000.
Read the Appeal judgement in Timothy James Consulting Ltd v Wilton here, which includes fuller information about the case heard at the original ET.
Remember, even if you have a friendship, casual or other contact or relationship with an employee outside of work, when an employee is at work, they must be treated correctly, as an employee. It may be difficult for many to separate out correctly managing a workplace issue when an outside of work relationship has been, or does exist. We are used to stepping into these situations, managing any process correctly and progressing matters simply on a process basis. If you think you need help from a totally independent outside HR expert then give us a ring to discuss your concerns on 0845 463 3231. Find out what other small businesses think of us right here.