IT expert wins Employment Tribunal sex discrimination claim

hmctsA former employee of a software company has won a five-figure sum after she claimed that she had been discriminated against in her dismissal from the company.

An Employment Tribunal found that software company Fidessa Plc discriminated against former employee Wendi Lancaster by excluding her from a new job which would have saved her from being made redundant.

Mrs Lancaster gave evidence to the Watford Employment Tribunal that she had left the business to have her first child in 2012 and agreed prior to her return from maternity leave that she would work 9am to 5pm four days a week upon her¬†return, allowing her to collect her child from nursery in the evening. However, she stated that upon her return to the company Deepa Tumber, Fidessa Plc’s Global Head of Connectivity, put pressure on her to undertake duties after 5pm.

Mrs Lancaster also told the Employment Tribunal that she discovered in 2014 again that she was pregnant. She stated that Mr Tumber had on one occasion sworn at her when she asked for a day’s annual leave to see her doctor for an ante-natal appointment, and that Mr Tumber had told her on another occasion that he would only eat lobster “from your mother’s left breast”.

In November 2014 Mrs Lancaster and her line manager were told by Fidessa that they were at risk of redundancy. She was offered a new engineering role but was told that key functions of that role would have to be carried out after 5pm, a requirement which she could not fulfil because of her childcare duties. She stated that she could not accept the alternative role and was subsequently made redundant by Fidessa.

Fidessa plc contested Mrs Lancaster’s Employment Tribunal claims, contending that she had been dismissed fairly from her position and that she had not been discriminated against. In evidence, Mr Tumber stated to the Employment Tribunal that he denied discriminating against Mrs Lancaster but that he admitted swearing at work, but that this was simply engaging in banter “with the guys”.

The Watford Employment Tribunal upheld Mrs Lancaster’s claims for unfair dismissal. direct sex discrimination, indirect sex discrimination, and breach of working time regulations, awarding her an undisclosed five-figure sum.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers must make sure that any redundancy process is carried out in a fair manner, that employees are provided with sufficient notice of redundancy, that a proper consultation exercise is carried out, and that any suitable alternative vacancies are communicated to affected employees. A failure to ensure that these requirements are put in place may render the employer liable to an unfair dismissal claim.”

Get Surrey’s original article on this case can be found here.