Employee awarded £18,000 by Employment Tribunal after campaign of sexual harassment

redmans-blog-newsA female council employee has been awarded tens of thousands of pounds in compensation by an Employment Tribunal after she was subjected to a campaign of harassment by a male colleague.

Lynn Poustie was awarded £18,000 by an Employment Tribunal after it found a colleague of hers, Alexander Ritchie, had subjected her to a campaign of sexual harassment.

Mrs Poustie gave evidence to the Tribunal that the harassment by Mr Ritchie, a road sweeper at the Council, had started in 2011. Ms Poustie told the Tribunal that Mr Ritchie was a colleague whom she would have a ‘regular chit-chat’ with but that in 2011 in unexpectedly told her that he loved her. Ms Poustie told Mr Ritchie that she was happily married with children and that she didn’t wish to enter into a relationship with him. However, Mr Ritchie later came to another colleague’s house “drunk and crying” and said to the colleague that he had left his wife because he was in love with Mrs Poustie. Mr Ritchie also began to spread rumours that he was having a sexual affair with Mrs Poustie.

Mrs Poustie raised a grievance regarding Mr Ritchie’s behaviour in 2011 and Midlothian Council transferred Mr Ritchie to work in another town. However, Mr Ritchie was allowed to work overtime in Dalkeith, where Mrs Poustie was based, and would therefore regularly come into contact with her. He would, Mrs Poustie told the Employment Tribunal, wait outside her office and threaten her, and told colleagues that he knew where she lived. This behaviour compelled Mrs Poustie to install cameras at her home and to subsequently make a complaint about Mr Ritchie’s behaviour to the police.

Giving evidence to the Employment Tribunal, Mrs Poustie said that she did not think her managers had taken her grievances seriously because they had started to believe the rumours that Mr Ritchie was spreading.

In addition to the grievances made against Mr Ritchie by Mrs Poustie, he was convicted in late 2015 of harassment and threatening behaviour by the Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The Employment Tribunal found in Mrs Poustie’s favour in her claim for sexual harassment and awarded her £18,000 in compensation. Employment Judge Murdo MacLeod, giving judgment in the matter, stated: “The Claimant has undergone a distressing and anxious time, over a period of some three years, as a result of the harassment visited upon her by Mr Ritchie. Mr Ritchie’s behaviour towards her was such as to attract a conviction in the criminal proceedings taken against him, and therefore amounted to very serious misconduct.”

Chris Hadrill, head of the employment department at Redmans, commented on the case: “If an allegation of sexual harassment is made at work then employers must take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that the allegations are dealt with promptly, fairly, and thoroughly – a failure to ensure such action is taken could render the employer liable to proceedings for sexual harassment.”