Solicitor ordered to pay £20,000 by Employment Tribunal after sexually harassing employee

MoJThe director of a law firm (A) and A’s law firm (C) has been ordered by an Employment Tribunal to pay a former employee (B) £20,000 after it was found that A had sexually harassed B and discriminated against B because of B’s gender.

The solicitor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was ordered (together with A’s firm) by an Employment Tribunal to pay £20,000 to a former paralegal at the law firm (which also cannot be identified), after A subjected B to a number of sexually-explicit and implicit comments and then sacked B.

After being sacked, the former paralegal made an Employment Tribunal claim for sexual harassment and sex discrimination, alleging that they had been fired from their job for refusing A’s sexual advances. B told the Employment Tribunal at a hearing earlier this year that the following had occurred during the course of their employment:

  • That A had asked B for photographs of B and asked B whether they were “spoken for” before B took the job at A’s firm
  • That A had told B that there were double showers in the office and asked B to marry A
  • That A had “indundated” B with text messages and had asked B to go to the cinema with A
  • That on one occasion A had told the paralegal that A was putting a double bed in the office of A’s firm for a “chill-out area out of hours”
  • That A had commented on B’s figure, telling B that B was “stocky”

B also gave evidence that B had told A that B had a partner – although this was not true – to prevent A from making further sexual advances towards B. Shortly after B told him this, however, A fired her, telling B that A could not pay B because of a problem with the cash flow of the business.

A denied making the any of the alleged comments to A’s former paralegal and claimed that A had made B redundant. However, the Employment Tribunal ruled in B’s favour in respect of B’s claims for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Employment Judge Katherine Ross stated in the judgment: “There was a clear course of conduct where A, the owner of the business, engaged in unwanted sexual conduct. The claimant had continually rejected A’s advances. B avoided being alone with A. We are satisfied that the true reason for the claimant’s dismissal was because of B’s rejection of A’s conduct.”

A and A’s law firm were jointly ordered to pay compensation to the former paralegal as result of the sexual harassment, including £14,000 for injury to feelings, £4,000 in aggravated damages, and loss of earnings of £2,111.

The case is the subject of a Restricted Reporting Order and no details of the identity of any of the parties to the case can therefore be revealed.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “It is absolutely unacceptable for any worker to be subjected to unwanted comments of a sexual nature by colleagues and A has had a sizeable award made against A and A’s firm because A has done so. Businesses should take allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace extremely seriously and should have policies and procedures in place to ensure that any complaints of sexual harassment are dealt with efficiently and fairly.”

It is believed that A is appealing the judgment of the Employment Tribunal.

UPDATE (08/09/2014): Please note that the original version of this article identified the parties to this litigation. It has subsequently been brought to our attention that a Restricted Reporting Order was in place which was intended to prevent identification of either the claimant or the respondents. This article has therefore been updated to obscure the identification of the parties. Redmans apologises for any inconvenience or distress that has been caused to either of the parties.