Sexual Harassment Liability
A female client was subjected to sex discrimination in the form of sexual harassment. The harassment was carried out by the Managing Director of her employers.
Over a nine month period she was subjected to a course of conduct which included inappropriate behaviour, verbal remarks, emails, phone calls and texts. Complaints direct to the Managing Director and to the client’s Line Manager made no difference to the behaviour which continued as before.
Attempts to negotiate a settlement failed and an Employment Tribunal claim was made with both the employer and the Managing Director as Respondents. In a case of this nature, the individual is personally responsible and therefore personally liable for the harassment.
The Employment Judge found both Respondents jointly and severally liable and awarded £22,500 in compensation for injury to feelings and a further sum just short of £2,500 as interest.
In assessing the value of the claim, the Judge accepted submissions based on the Vento Guidelines (Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police 2003 IRLR 102 CA) as updated by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Da’Bell v National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 2010 IRLR 19.
The Judge took into account the offensive nature of the telephone calls, the fact that explicit emails had been sent together with unwanted sexual attention, physical touching and the sending to the client of a pornographic image.
The size of the award in this case demonstrates the potential liability of both an employer and the employee responsible for the harassment if steps are not immediately taken to halt such behaviour.