Conduct that may constitute sexual harassment can include: sexual jokes and innuendo; sexual or gender related insults; repeated sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; unwelcome touching of a sexual nature, groping etc; and whilst the perpetrator might think it’s funny, sexual harassment is no laughing matter.
For expert legal advice on any type of sexual harassment in the workplace, call our sexual harassment lawyers on 0113 200 9787, email them via firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our contact form and we’ll get back in touch with you.
Michael Lewin Solicitors are leading lawyers in Employment and Stress at Work Claims, and as Members of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel we are able to offer expert advice on all potential claims you may have against your employer (in both the Employment Tribunal and Civil Courts).
We will give you some initial advice and conduct an initial assessment of your claim for free and act for the vast majority of our clients under the terms of a no win, no fee agreement.
Michael Lewin Solicitors are sensitive and delicate harassment lawyers. We understand that victims of this type of harassment can feel aggrieved, degraded and have lasting injuries as a result of the conduct subjected to.
Sexual discrimination in the workplace or/ sexual harassment can take numerous forms ranging for inappropriate touching or assaults to inappropriate comments or the displaying or inappropriate images in the workplace; and it can happen to and affect both males and females.
Simple Legal Overview
You may have potential claims in both the Civil Courts and the Employment Tribunal, and in order to maximise your prospects of success, it is important you choose a legal representative that understand the remedies available in both the Employment Tribunal and Civil Courts.
There are important distinctions between a sexual harassment compensation claim pursued in the Tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 and one pursued as a civil claim and our detailed guide below explores this in further detail but in summary:
- You ordinarily have 3 months from the date of the last act of Harassment to lodge your claim in the Employment Tribunal
- Civil claims are subject to a time limit of 3 years from the date of knowledge that any injury has been sustained and in some cases this time limit may be extended to 6 years if the claim can be pursued under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
- To pursue a civil claim under this Act it is ordinarily necessary to prove that the Claimant has suffered a recognisable psychiatric condition as a result of the conduct – although this is not necessary in the Employment Tribunal.
- The Employment Tribunal can make an award for Injury to Feelings under the Vento Guidelines whereas this would not generally be awarded in civil courts. An award for Injury to Feelings is different to an award for personal Injuries.
- Employment Tribunal Claims must initially be pursued through the ACAS early conciliation procedure. This does not apply to personal injury claims which have an alternative protocol.
Contact us for your free initial advice and we will be able to tell you which is your best course of action for your chance to win and get the best compensation.
Michael Lewin Solicitors are experts in claims of this nature and will advise you regarding all potential avenues and guide you as to which jurisdiction may be most beneficial to your particular circumstances.
If you are successful in pursuing a legal action against your Employer then, subject to the specific circumstances of your claim, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Injury to Feelings under the Vento Guidelines (as adjusted by Da’Bell)
- Personal Injuries (often referred to as General Damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity)
- Lost Earnings (and potentially future loss of earnings) including notice pay and holiday pay
- Loss of Bonus or Commissions
- The cost of obtaining psychiatric or medical treatment
- Pension Loss
- Care and Assistance
- Loss of Opportunity of obtaining a future Employment (often referred to as a Smith v Manchester award)
We are able to offer no win, no fee agreements for claims of this nature and additional offer appropriate insurance products to insure the cost of disbursements such as Court or Tribunal fees.
Sexual Harassment At Work Claims: The Law
As already mentioned, sexual harassment claims are actionable in both the Employment Tribunal and either the County or High Court. The law relating to each jurisdiction differs with different legal principle’s applying.
It is important that you choose which avenue is the best option for you at the outset, as to attempt to pursue the same claim in both jurisdictions is likely to be considered to be an abuse of process and may result in the latter claim being struck out. We will help you with this.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each option and therefore it is important that your legal representative is able to consider both claims at the outset so you can make an informed decision as to how you wish to proceed.
Sexual Harassment under the Equality Act 2010
Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 deals specifically with Harassment and specifically includes sections on Sexual Harassment.
Harassment is described as ‘conduct (that) has the purpose or effect of violating the individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment’
Sexual Harassment claims are dealt with in Section 26(2) and 26(3) of the Act and refers to the perpetrator engaging in ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ which has the effect of ‘violating the individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment’.
In the alternative under Section 26(3) if the individual is treated less favourably as a result of the submission to or rejection of the perpetrators unwanted conduct then this may also give rise to a claim.
The respondent may be able to defend the claim if it is believed that the individual was ‘over sensitive’ to the comments.
Claims under the Equality Act 2010 have very short time limits and ordinarily any claim must be registered under the early conciliation scheme with ACAS within 3 months (3 months less a day) of the last act otherwise any claim may be time barred.
Sexual Harassment in the Civil Courts
The Equality Act 2010 does not apply in the Civil Courts, however if an individual has suffered a recognised psychiatric injury as a result of the Defendant’s conduct then a claim may be brought under the Protection from Harassment Act 2010 or in common law for the injuries sustained and all losses which are caused as a result of the injury including for instance loss of earnings.
There are different legal tests which apply.
Section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 states that an individual must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment.
This gives the courts quite a broad remit but generally the Court would expect the conduct of the perpetrator to be oppressive and unacceptable or be ‘calculated to cause alarm or distress’.
The claim can also be pursued in common law based on negligence particularly of the failure of the employer to protect the Claimant from such conduct.
One advantage of civil claims is that the time limits to pursue such claims are much longer than in the Tribunal. However there are some disadvantages and the principle disadvantage is that if the conduct is not sufficiently serious to warrant liability under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 then it may be necessary to prove that causation of an injury was foreseeable to the employer.
The Courts will look at the events complained of globally to assess whether the conduct amounts to harassment. An isolated comment or incident is unlikely to attract liability unless the isolated incident was an assault. The Courts will assess whether there has been a ‘course of conduct’.
As with many types of claim, it is important to obtain evidence at an early stage. Contacting witnesses to obtain independent evidence is vital but also evidence such as emails, complaints and grievances will all potentially assist your claim.