ET Awards £22,000 to Lidl Employee in a Sex Discrimination and Victimisation Case

In Ms L Callaghan v Lidl Great Britain Ltd, a Lidl employee has been awarded over £22,000 after winning her case. The tribunal found in favour of her sex discrimination and victimisation claims, and below, we explore what happened.

The Facts in Ms L Callaghan v Lidl Great Britain Ltd

The Background of the Lidl Employee

Ms Callaghan (“The Claimant”) began working for Lidl Great Britain Ltd (“The Respondent”) on 1 August 2017 as a supply chain administrator. The claimant worked under Mr Lee Clark, her line manager, whom Mr Jonathan Carter, the regional head of supply chain, managed.

Whilst working in this department, Ms Callaghan had a good relationship with Mr Clark and informed him about her knee disability. She told him when it affected her ability to work, and he subsequently helped whenever she required assistance. However, this didn’t impact his opinion of the Lidl employee, thinking highly of her abilities.

Ms Callaghan Raises a Grievance

On 29 November 2018, Ms Callaghan provided Graham Clark, the Regional Director, with a written grievance. It outlined her complaints about Mr Carter’s actions on several accounts. She told the tribunal she was concerned about complaining, fearing for her career, but continued with Mr Clark’s support.

The claimant explained how she’d been unfairly treated and subject to behaviour, including shouting, unwanted physical contact and intimidation. She then laid out each particular instance in detail and date order.

The Lidl Employee Outlines Her Complaints

Firstly, the Lidl employee discussed an incident during a team trip to Centre Parcs, organised by Mr Carter. He’d arranged for his team to go between 8 and 11 June 2018, but the claimant left early on 9 June. 

Ms Callaghan explained how, during a conversation on the trip, Mr Carter held onto her face with both hands. Despite feeling uncomfortable and asking him to let go, she had to ask a further two times before he did. She also stated that he pressed her about not swimming, telling her it was “ridiculous” to feel uncomfortable.

Then, she discussed an issue arising from an office ‘rule’ where individuals paid 10p to charity if caught wearing coats at their desks. She stated that Mr Carter called her “sneaky” after catching her doing just that. However, Ms Callaghan explained that Mr Carter knew she didn’t like others having access to her belongings, adding that she didn’t want the humiliation of retrieving her sanitary products with colleagues questioning where she was going.

Moving on, the claimant talked about an internal job application she’d made. The Lidl employee outlined how Mr Carter expressed unhappiness with her applying against his suggestion. Furthermore, she alleged he said she was unsuccessful because she lacked experience and he couldn’t “envisage working with her as a manager”.

Finally, the claimant addressed general issues she had with Mr Carter. Ms Callaghan detailed how, on one occasion, he called a pregnant employee fat. She also discussed how he didn’t believe she had a knee disability and had to provide medical evidence. She suggested that Mr Carter should apologise and receive training to ensure his conduct isn’t repeated.

A Grievance Investigation Takes Place

Following receipt of the letter, the respondent appointed individuals to conduct a grievance investigation despite their lack of equality and diversity training. Those appointed then arranged for interviews with all available on 4 and 5 December 2018. The interviews took place 500 metres from the claimant’s desk, in the administration block.

During Ms Callaghan’s interview, she reiterated the points she made in her grievance letter. When Mr Carter was interviewed, he said the Lidl employee was a good worker but “did not fit into the department”. This sentiment was also held by some other colleagues interviewed. 

Concerning the incident at Centre Parcs, Mr Carter denied the allegations, insisting that only a group hug occurred. Moreover, he stated the “sneaky’ comment regarding the coat was only “a bit of a joke and to raise money”. Then, despite denying calling a pregnant colleague fat, he admitted to making a joke about her weight but added that he apologised after she took offence.

Before deliberating on the outcome of Ms Callaghan’s grievance, those in charge of the investigation considered her job application allegation. They concluded that they felt the appropriate person was offered the role, meaning no further action was required.

The Grievance isn’t Upheld

Ms Callaghan was informed about the outcome of her grievance on 14 December. She learned that her Centre Parcs complaint wasn’t upheld since “no other person witnessed the incident”. She also found that her coat complaint was unsuccessful because “the rule regarding the storage of coats was acceptable”. This was despite the respondent understanding that the comments made “could have been taken in the wrong way”.

Following this, the respondent explained that the matter regarding the pregnant employee had been resolved since Mr Carter had apologised. As such, no further action needed to be taken.

Finally, the claimant learned that her grievance concerning Mr Carter not believing she had a knee disability was rejected. The outcome explained it was acceptable for Mr Carter to request medical evidence but didn’t address his comments about not believing her. Therefore, the only successful complaint made by the Lidl employee concerned Mr Carter shouting at her during a meeting.

The Lidl Employee Makes a Grievance Appeal

On 19 December, Ms Callaghan appealed her grievance, explaining how the Centre Parcs and coat incident had been unreasonably rejected. She also stated that Mr Carter had ignored her since the investigation.

However, on 5 March 2019, the claimant learned her appeal was unsuccessful. Therefore, the outcome was the same despite an employment law specialist handling the grievance appeal investigation. As a result, Ms Callaghan resigned on 8 March, ending her employment on 24 March. Subsequently, she presented her claim to an employment tribunal on 12 July.

The Employment Tribunal Judgement

The tribunal found that neither the grievance nor appeal investigation had been conducted correctly. Both Mr Carter’s and Ms Callaghan’s recollections of the Centre Parcs incident were uncorroborated, yet Mr Carter’s was believed. The tribunal concluded that no other explanation could be given for this difference in treatment other than the individuals’ sex. As such, they held the claimant had been subjected to sex discrimination.

Moreover, given that Ms Callaghan had a knee disability, the tribunal established the respondent could have held her interview closer. Rather than making her walk 500 metres, they found it could have been conducted in a meeting room, just 20 meters from her desk. Therefore, they ruled the respondent had failed to make reasonable adjustments.

Finally, the tribunal stated that the grievance made by the Lidl employee was a protected characteristic. This is because her complaints primarily related to her or another colleague’s sex. Therefore, since Mr Carter ignored Ms Callaghan, which they found to be a detriment, they concluded she’d been victimised.

As a result, Ms Callaghan’s claims of sex discrimination and victimisation succeeded, and she was awarded £22,006.01.

Making a Claim with Redmans

If you have experienced sex discrimination or victimisation and want to claim compensation, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists who can assess your eligibility to claim compensation and advise on how to proceed. Contact us now by: