Former Port Vale employee wins Employment Tribunal harassment and discrimination claims

MoJA former employee of a League One football club has won her claims for sexual harassment and sex discrimination against the club after she was fired from her job in October 2014.

Joanne Clay, worked for Port Vale Football Club from 2011 until October 2014, when she was dismissed from her position as sales event manager on allegations that she had been having an affair with Marc Richards, formerly a footballer at the club.

Subsequent to being dismissed from her position, Ms Clay made claims for sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal. Ms Clay’s case came to the Employment Tribunal earlier this year.

Giving evidence to the Employment Tribunal, Ms Clay stated that she had not had an affair with Mr Richards but that rumours of such had started to circulate after he wrote his name on her car, followed her to the bank, and persuaded her to give him her home address. Ms Clay stated that she was then told that she was going to be subjected to a disciplinary on the allegation that she had flouted club rules by having a relationship with one of the players, despite her denying that she had had an affair with Mr Richards. She was subsequently dismissed from her position for gross misconduct for breaching club rules.

Ms Clay¬†also claimed that she had been told that she was “too attractive to work in football” by another employee, and that she had been subjected to sexual harassment by the club’s other sales manager, Chris Bedding. Ms Clay gave evidence that Mr Bedding had made crude sexual comments about Ms Clay, whom he allegedly referred to as “bitch” and “blondie”, asked to date him, and asked her to wear “low-cut tops”.

The Employment Tribunal panel ruled in Ms Clay’s favour in her claims for sex discrimination and sexual harassment. The judgment of the Employment Tribunal stated that a man would not have been dismissed in the same position and commented that no action was taken against Mr Richards. It was also found that Mr Bedding had sexually harassed Ms Clay. A further hearing will be held to determine what compensation Port Value and Azure Support Services Ltd should pay to Ms Clay in respect of her claims.

Neither Mr Richards nor Port Vale have commented on the judgment.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “If employees sexually harass their colleagues then the employer may be held responsible – employers must be diligent in training staff effectively and taking proper and fair allegations if complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination are made in the workplace.”