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Harassment in the workplace

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In February 2018 a retail assistant was awarded over £47,000 after their employer failed to properly investigate and deal with an issue of harassment appropriately.

The transgender employee was employed for less than 6 months by the high street retailer Primark and was subjected to gender reassignment discrimination after she was told that she had a ‘man’s voice’ and ‘smelled like a men’s toilet’.

The Employment Tribunal allowed the claim for harassment and found that Primark had conducted a ‘very severe’ injury to Miss de Souza’s feelings and that she had been ‘bullied out of a job’.

Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and the tribunal found that the retailer had not properly dealt with the discrimination or the harassment she had been subjected to on a number of occasions from a number of colleagues.

Miss de Souza had submitted a letter of grievance to her employer, which wasn’t found to have been followed up in line with the retailer’s policies. 

She felt she had no choice but to take a period of absence due to the stress and to report the matter to the police.  Primark informed her that she would be invited to an investigatory interview to explain the facts around her absence, and then they named her as Employee of the month.

The tribunal judge ruled that she had been constructively dismissed and that her treatment had violated her dignity to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Primark was found to have failed in properly investigating the matter and hadn’t dealt with it appropriately by not giving Miss de Souza the outcome of her grievance or the right to appeal.  As a result, she was awarded over £47,000 which included a loss of past and future earnings, pension, injury to feelings and interest.

Kim says: “we’re hearing about these types of issues far too regularly now either from clients or in the press.  Awareness is key, training is critical and managers must lead the way.  We give constant reminders of the need to fully investigate and the response is often it’ll be fine or we’ve done enough. We’re living and working in an ever changing and diverse world – keep up or pay the price!”

For advice and support on Discrimination in the Workplace training or a review of your company’s policies and procedures, contact Kim Hayton or Kerry Mercer on 01925 230000