Discrimination Harassment and Unfair Dismissal

Discrimination Harassment and Unfair Dismissal

I have read recently that a female solicitor Kate Baker has reached a settlement with her employer after suing them in the employment Tribunal for sex discrimination sexual harassment and unfair dismissal. She accused her boss of bullying her and not wanting her to be in a relationship or have children.
Miss Baker told an Employment Tribunal earlier this year that she had received a text message from the wife of her boss which reiterated that he wanted her to remain single.
The final hearing which was due to take place in Exeter last week was vacated due to the parties reaching an agreed settlement. This case will not therefore have any impact on employment law generally or provide any demonstration of discrimination in the workplace because a Tribunal did not have the opportunity to give Judgment.
However it is worth giving some consideration to the claims that Miss Baker pursued.
Employees have the right not to be treated less favourably than their colleagues on the grounds of their sex. Miss Baker claimed that her employer had bullied her demanded that she remained single and ultimately dismissed her because of the fact that she was a woman. She argued that a male employee in the same situation would not have been treated in the same way. It is difficult to believe that all of the solicitors employed by the Respondent in this case were single and Miss Baker therefore appears to have been treated less favourably.
Miss Baker claimed that she was dismissed because her employer found out that she was in a relationship. Any employee has the right not to be unfairly dismissed as long as they have been in continuous employment for at least 2 years (from 6th April 2012). If Miss Baker was found to have been dismissed because the Respondent did not like that she was in a relationship then this would not have been a fair reason to dismiss her and the decision to dismiss her could not have been reasonable in the circumstances.
Any employer needs to have a fair reason for dismissal such as conduct capability redundancy statutory restriction or some other substantial reason. They also need to show that a fair disciplinary procedure was followed prior to dismissal. This could include carrying out an investigation a fair redundancy procedure and inviting employees to investigation and disciplinary meetings prior to making any decision.
Miss Baker’s final claim was one for sexual harassment. This would occur if somebody engaged in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose of effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating hostile degrading humiliating of offensive environment for them. This can include making inappropriate comments or making unwanted contact.
Whilst there is a variety of case law demonstrating less favourable treatment and harassment each case is decided on its own facts.
Sex discrimination and harassment can often go hand in hand although the two are mutually exclusive of each other. Sex discrimination does not necessarily mean harassment and vice versa.
If you consider that you may have been treated less favourably on the grounds of your sex or for any other reason then you may have a claim for discrimination. Equally if your boss or one of your colleagues is treating you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable intimidated or humiliated at work please contact the dedicated team of employment lawyers at Michael Lewin Solicitors and we will be happy to discuss these issues with you.
Written by Anthony Fox

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