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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

In AA Solicitors Limited (T/A AA Solicitors) and Another v Majid, a young female lawyer who was treated in a demeaning and disrespectful manner by the principal of the firm for which she worked has been awarded more than £20,000 in compensation.

The principal was an older man in a position of power and authority who treated the woman as if she was only present in the office for his pleasure and gratification, rather than to work or improve her legal skills. She politely rejected his advances and the firm later purported to make her redundant.

Her sexual harassment claim was upheld by an Employment Tribunal and she was awarded £14,000 for injury to her feelings, £4,000 in aggravated damages and £2,111 in respect of lost earnings. The principal and his firm, who were held jointly and severally liable, argued before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that the award in respect of injury to feelings was excessive.

In rejecting the appeal, however, the EAT found that, in the eyes of a reasonable person, the law would be regarded as deficient if it did not mark the principal’s conduct with an award that recognised how humiliating it was for the woman to lose her job because she was not willing to play the sexually charged role that he had allotted to her. The EAT noted that, happily, the woman had not been out of work for long and had quickly found employment with another law firm.

This case serves as a reminder that the law protects employees from unwanted conduct relating to sex and from behaviour which violates their dignity. This includes behaviour by one employee towards another. Employers are advised to ensure that all employees are aware that no form of harassment will be tolerated in the workplace and have in place robust procedures for enforcing the policy.

Contact Wendy Davidson for advice on how to create and enforce an effective anti-discrimination policy.


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