Beauty Therapist Faced Sexual Harassment Throughout Her Employment; Wins £20,000 Payout in ET

In April Freke v Rohit Vikal and Emma Victoria Ltd T/a Shapins Clinic, a beauty therapist was awarded nearly £20,000 after an employment tribunal ruled she’d faced sexual harassment from her boss. She has also been awarded £1522.05 due to unlawful deductions from wages.

Below, we explore the events that influenced April Freke to claim and the judgment of the employment tribunal. If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment and want to claim compensation, contact Redmans Solicitors now. We are employment law specialists and could inform you of your eligibility to make a claim.

To begin:

The Facts in April Freke v Rohit Vikal and Emma Victoria Ltd T/a Shapins Clinic

April Freke (“The Claimant”) began working for Shapins Clinic, owned by Rohit Vikal (“The Respondent”), on 4 February 2022. She was employed as a beauty therapist and worked under the beauty salon’s owner.

Beauty Therapist Recalled Several Sexual Harassment Incidents

According to the claimant, in roughly April 2022, the respondent requested a full-body massage from her. He’d scheduled this into her timetable without consulting her first, and despite several further pleas, she refused to do it. The respondent claimed he didn’t repeatedly ask and that practising on one another was commonplace, but the tribunal favoured the claimant’s account.

Moreover, during the week of 3 May, the beauty therapist undertook training and stayed at a hotel. On 4 May, her boss turned up at the hotel uninvited, followed her into her room, and ate pizza there. The tribunal understood that this was entirely at his request and had made her feel uncomfortable.

Subsequently, sometime between June and July, the respondent attempted to get the claimant to open a PornHub link. During another July incident, he wouldn’t hand over her car keys, asking her to “stay and talk”. That same month, he also told her that she had “sexy legs”. 

Several months later, in September, the respondent suggested the beauty therapist should get her teeth done. She claimed he said, “Everything has to be perfect”. Finally, despite being unsure of the date, she claimed he’d touched her knee and repeatedly messaged her about his feelings towards her. 

The only evidence of the latter was from a WhatsApp message on 22 September. Here, the claimant had said, “Rohit you asked me to be your girlfriend…I cannot believe we are back here again”. The respondent claimed she’d confused their talks of her becoming his business partner with him wanting her to be his girlfriend. However, the tribunal dismissed this.

April Freke Resigned after Acas Early Conciliation

On 23 September, the beauty therapist was signed off on sick leave due to stress. She then submitted fit notes to cover her leave until the end of December.

Following her initial absence, the claimant raised a grievance via email, alleging numerous instances of sexual harassment on 27 September. Subsequently, her boss explained that he’d forwarded her message to his HR company and would respond directly.

The respondent’s HR advisor, Peninsula, then investigated the grievance. They interviewed the claimant, her boss, and another employee before producing a grievance report on 8 November. Peninsula stated that six of the ten allegations made were unsubstantiated, three weren’t upheld, and only one was partially upheld.

As a result, the beauty therapist commenced ACAS early conciliation on 28 November, which concluded on 7 December. The claimant resigned the following day and claimed to an employment tribunal on 16 December. 

Upon receiving her final pay, the claimant noticed deductions had been made from her salary. This was due to employer-funded training she’d received, which they claimed they were entitled to deduct under the employment contract.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

Following deliberations, the tribunal stated the account of the beauty therapist was credible due to the great detail she’d provided. They believed there’d been a “clear power imbalance” since the claimant was young and her boss offered opportunities to progress.

Concerning the incidents raised, the tribunal ruled each case pointed to that of a sexual nature, violating the claimant’s dignity. As such, her claim of sexual harassment was upheld.

Then, the tribunal turned to the matter of wage deductions. They explained that although the employment contract entitled the employer to make such deductions, the sexual harassment amounted to a fundamental breach. As such, the claimant was entitled to treat the employment contract as terminated, meaning unlawful deductions from wages had occurred.

As a result, the tribunal awarded the beauty therapist £19,305.61 for financial loss and injury to feelings and £1522.05 for the deductions.

If you have experienced something similar to April Freke and don’t know how to proceed, contact us now. Redmans Solicitors have helped several clients with employment law issues and could advise on your possible next steps. Get in touch with us today by: