Line manager sexually harassed temp worker after touching her leg inappropriately (Campbell v Permateelisa (UK) Ltd & R Verolini – ET/2205197/2018)
In the case of Campbell v Permateelisa (UK) Ltd & R Verolini ET/2205197/2018 the Employment Tribunal awarded a contractor over £13,000 after her line manager was found to have sexually harassed her.
The facts in Campbell v Permateelisa (UK) Ltd & anor
Ms Campbell (“the Claimant”) was an agency worker who commenced working at Permateelisa (UK) Ltd (“R1”) on 22 November 2017 as an assistant quantity surveyor. Mr Verolini (“R2”) was her line manager.
On 23 January 2018 the Claimant was working in the site office and R2 was working in Italy, checking the Claimant’s timesheet from the previous week. He asked the Claimant in a messaging app what time she had left the office on Friday 19 January 2018 and she replied ’12 noon’, and that she had only worked 4 hours. She said ‘you can put 9 if you want’ followed by a smiley emoji. R2 replied ‘and what do I get in return?’. The Claimant said ‘happy Roxy’ followed by another smiley emoji, and R2 replied ‘not enough’. The Claimant found R2’s messages ‘creepy’, and that they made her feel ‘cheap and dirty’.
On 30 January 2018 R2 caressed the Claimant’s leg under the desk while they were sitting next to each other at a desk.
On 16 February 2018 the Claimant asked to leave work early, and R2 asked her in a message what he would get ‘in return’. The Claimant replied ‘nothing’, and R2 said ‘then no, you can’t leave early’. R2 then, after a further exchange of messages, wrote to the Claimant ‘thinking about it u owe me a dinner’. The Claimant responded ‘haha no way’.
On 21 February 2018 the Claimant submitted a complaint to her agency that she had been feeling uncomfortable at the office and that R2 had been getting a bit close, touching her leg but making a joke about it. She asked the agency to look for another placement for her, if possible.
On 23 February 2018 the Claimant removed R2 as a contact on Whatsapp. This meant that R2 could no longer view her Whatsapp profile picture and could not see when she was last online. R2 messaged her later that day saying ‘hey why have u removed your photo on your profile? It was the best thing to look at on Whatsapp.” The Claimant did not like this message and did not reply to it.
On 14 March 2018 the Claimant covertly recorded a meeting between herself and R2. In this meeting she complained about the way R2 had treated her, in particular the comments he was making about her appearance and the fact that he had touched her leg. R2 did not deny touching her leg and said that he was going to be harder on her. R2 also suggested that she may wish to leave the business.
On 15 March 2018 R2 ignored the Claimant for most of the day and his attitude towards her changed – she said that unusual requests were made and that he began to make negative comments about her, as well as ‘nit-picking’ at her work. Later that day the Claimant submitted a grievance to R2 complaining about how he had treated her – they then had a telephone conversation in which he became hostile towards her.
On 20 March 2018 R2 ignored the Claimant and did not give her any duties until 2.30pm.
On 21 March 2018 the Claimant was summoned to a meeting with the HR manager, Ms Hare. Ms Hare stated that there were some concerns about the Claimant’s conduct that she wished to address.
The Claimant went off work sick on 22 March 2018 and she did not return to work at R1.
On 3 April 2018 the Claimant wrote to Ms Hare by email asking why a job advertisement had been posted for the position of Assistant Quantity Surveyor at R1 through her agency, Workstream. The Claimant said that she was intending to return to work when her fit note expired but that it appeared that R1 was trying to replace her.
On 4 April 2018 Ms Hare wrote to the Claimant by email stating that her engagement had been terminated for the reason that the work on her particular project had been completed. Ms Hare also raised concerns about the Claimant’s conduct during her engagement.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal
The Employment Tribunal held that R2’s touching of the Claimant’s leg on 30 January 2018 had amounted to sexual harassment (under section 26 Equality Act 2010) – it was unwanted conduct which had the effect of violating the Claimant’s dignity.
The Employment Tribunal also held that the following conduct by R2 had constituted victimisation:
- That R2 had ignored the Claimant upon his return to the office on 20 March 2018
- That the Claimant had been ‘ambushed’ at the meeting on 21 March 2018 and that, at this meeting, they decided to replace the Claimant
- The termination of the Claimant’s engagement on 4 April 2018 (although this finding was revoked after an application for reconsideration by R1, on the basis that this claim had not been pursued by the Claimant)
At a later remedy hearing the Employment Tribunal awarded the Claimant the sum of £12,000 in respect of the injury to her feelings together with the sum of £1,257.20 in interest, making a total award of £13,257.20.
Our solicitors’ comments on Campbell v Permateelisa (UK) Ltd & anor
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case is a reminder that employers must deal with complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace promptly, fairly, and thoroughly, whether they’re made by an employee or by a contractor.”
The liability decision of the Employment Tribunal in Campbell v Permateelisa (UK) Ltd & R Verolini ET/2205197/2018 can be found here.