Christian school technician wins £100,000 payout after Employment Tribunal claim

largeA Christian school technician has won over £100,000 in the Employment Tribunal after she was subjected to a campaign of discrimination and harassment at her employer.

Mrs Margaret Malcolm, 56, who is a committed Christian, commenced employment with Baldragon Academy in Dundee in 2000 as a school technician. During her employment with the academy, a number of male colleagues apparently picked on her – they would scrawl offensive drawings on her papers and make fun of her over the fact that she was Christian. Mrs Malcolm complained to her line manager about the conduct but – after a campaign of harassment which dated back to May 2001 – she resigned from her employment with the school in 2002 and submitted an Employment Tribunal claim in April 2002 for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, gender-related harassment and constructive dismissal.

The case originally came before an Employment Tribunal in April 2003 after a running battle through the Employment Tribunal as to whether Mrs Malcolm had submitted her . The Employment Tribunal rejected her claims at this stage – finding that her employer was not “vicariously liable” for the acts of its employees – but Mrs Malcolm appealed the decision, alleging that one of the lay panel members of the Employment Tribunal had fallen asleep during the Employment Tribunal hearing. The Employment Appeal Tribunal sent the case back to a fresh Tribunal after it found in Mrs Malcolm’s favour and it again went to a full hearing between March 2005 and November 2006. However, despite this further full hearing the case dragged on over the next three years until it arrived in Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session. The Court of Session sent the case back to a fresh tribunal again and this time the Employment Tribunal ruled in Mrs Malcolm’s favour, awarding her compensation for lost earnings, injury to feelings, psychiatric injury and loss of her pension.

The Employment Tribunal heard evidence that Mrs Malcolm’s co-workers at the Academy had seriously sexually harassed her since 2001. The first incident that had occurred had related to her religion, where a male colleague had written on a notice board “Caniggia is God” in a reference to Claudio Caniggia, the former Dundee football player. Mrs Malcolm had apparently changed “God” to “good” but the male colleague had changed the statement back to its original form. The Tribunal also heard that her male colleagues fashioned male genitalia from blu-tack and stuck these on her phone, as well as drawing pictures of penises on pictures that she had done for her “Brownie pack”. The Tribunal condemned this behaviour as “shameful” and stated that Miss Malcolm’s colleagues had carried out a “planned campaign of obscene behaviour against Miss Malcolm because they considered that she was a vulnerable individual who was very naive sexually and a devout Christian”. She was awarded £25,000 for injury to her feelings, £12,500 for psychiatric injury and £25,603 for loss of earnings. This – combined with interest at 8 percent and a sum for loss of pension rights in her former employment – put the total awarded at more than £100,000.