Employment Tribunal awards employee who was sexually harassed in the workplace almost £10,000 (Houlihan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited & anor)
In the case of Houlihan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited & anor ET/2401196/2017, the Employment Tribunal (in a remedy hearing) held that the claimant should be awarded almost £10,000 as compensation for the injury that she suffered to her feelings as a result of the incident of sexual harassment.
The facts in Houlihan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited & anor
The Employment Tribunal in an earlier liability judgment (which is unavailable) upheld Mrs Houlihan’s claim for sexual harassment on the basis of one incident which occurred in October 2016 as a result of the conduct of an employee of Sainsbury’s, Mr X.
The Employment Tribunal therefore dealt with the issue of remedy in this judgment.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET)
Injury to feelings
The Employment Tribunal, in determining remedy, awarded Mrs Houlihan £8,400 for injury to her feelings, plus interest of £1,185 (making a total of £9,585) – the Tribunal found that the incident of harassment in October 2016 was not serious enough to put it into the ‘middle’ Vento band but that it was at the upper end of the lower Vento band.
Personal injury & aggravated damages
The Employment Tribunal declined to make an award of personal injury to Mrs Houlihan as it found that there was insufficient evidence that the incident of harassment had caused her condition of Fibromyalgia. It further held that there was no legal basis on which to make an award of aggravated damages.
Loss of earnings
In respect of loss of earnings, the Employment Tribunal held that the reason for Mrs Houlihan’s absence from work was not related to the incident of sexual harassment that she suffered, but the manner in which she had been treated by her employer in the grievance process. The Employment Tribunal had also previously held in the liability hearing that the reason for Mrs Houlihan’s dismissal was not the harassment that she had suffered, but her absence from work.
ACAS Code uplift
The Employment Tribunal held that there was no breach of the ACAS Code that Mrs Houlihan could identify, and therefore no unreasonable behaviour on Sainsbury’s part.
Our solicitors’ views on the case of Houlihan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited & anor
Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case: “One of the notable things about this case is that the Tribunal appears to have disapproved of the fact that Mrs Houlihan insisted on Mr X being dismissed from the company before a fair and thorough investigation was carried out into the allegations that she was making (which may have caused a further unfair dismissal claim from Mr X). Employees should be aware, further, that it is rare for claims for aggravated damages to succeed.”
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Houlihan v Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited & anor ET/2401196/2017 can be found here.
EDIT: please note that, upon a request from one of the parties involved with this case, the identity of one of the parties has been anonymised.