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Employer who dismissed sexual harassment ordered to pay £24,000
The Employment Tribunal has recently heard a case which was struck out in 2015 for failure to pay tribunal fees. However, since the Supreme Court ruling in 2017 abolishing tribunal fees, the Claimant (W) had her case re-instated.
W worked for Lincolns Care Ltd between January 2015 and June 2015. Her role required her to work with and provide support for adults who suffered from mental health issues or had learning disabilities. In February 2015, W was asked to work with a colleague Juan Jose Guera Landazari (Juan). Whilst working along Juan he attempted to kiss W on the lips; at the time something that W attributed to a simple cultural misunderstanding and did not raise formally with her employer.
However, later in the same month Juan again attempted to kiss W, this time using force. Further still in April Juan had, on a number of separate occasions, touched W’s bottom and breasts and asked her personal questions about her sex life.
As a result of the harassment by Juan, W complained to her employer. In their response to W’s complaint, they told W to push Juan away if he made further advances and told W that she wouldn’t have to work with him again. No further action was taken by her employer against Juan. However, W had also reported the harassment to the police who, upon investigation, discovered that Juan was a registered sex offender and had previously been deported from the UK. Shortly after Juan was arrested, bailed and returned to work. As a result of Juan returning to work, W resigned claiming constructive unfair dismissal.
The ET ruled in W’s favour and awarded her in excess of £24,000, made up from £18,000 for injury to feelings, £874.05 for loss of earnings and £5,229.04 in interest.
This case should serve as a warning to employers that all allegations of harassment should be dealt with and investigated thoroughly. Where appropriate if there is evidence that harassment has occurred, further action should be taken appropriate to the extent of the harassment. It will often be the case that a proven allegation of harassment would be considered gross misconduct by an employer.
Finally, it is always advisable to offer equality and diversity training to your staff and to renew this on a regular basis, to ensure that they are clear on what is and is not appropriate behaviour in the workplace.