Female driver harassed before and during employment awarded £74,000
23rd January, 2020
In the recent case of Kim Beaney v Highways England and others, Miss Beaney (the “Claimant”) was awarded almost £74,000 by the Nottingham Employment Tribunal.
It was found that the Claimant had been constructively unfairly dismissed following harassing behaviour by Grant Bosence (the “Second Respondent”) and Steven Curtis (the “Third Respondent”), who were respectively the Claimant’s direct Line Manager and Supervisor.
The Claimant commenced employment on 3 April 2017 with Highways England (the “First Respondent”). She was employed as a driver and trainee highways inspector.
After her job interview, the Claimant received a text message from the Second Respondent’s personal mobile telephone assuring her that the company would be in touch soon. He had taken the Claimant’s personal number from her application form. The Tribunal found that the Second Respondent contacted the Claimant on her personal mobile phone because he was attracted to her to her from the outset.
Message exchanges continued between the Claimant and Second Respondent. The Second Respondent referred to the Claimant as a “pretty one”; he made reference to her legs; he called her “beautiful”; and he admitted that he “fancies” her.
Prior to commencing the role, the Claimant met the Second Respondent for a coffee. During this meeting, he said that he found her attractive and that he wanted a relationship with her. Following the coffee, the Second Respondent insisted that the Claimant went for a ride in his new car and attempted to kiss her.
The Tribunal accepted that the Claimant felt pressured not to upset the Second Respondent, and that she was concerned that her job may be withdrawn.
On another occasion, the Claimant was invited to the Second Respondent’s house and he tried to kiss and cuddle her. On a different occasion, the Claimant said that she would report the Second Respondent’s behaviour to HR and he replied by saying that he could have her “killed and buried for four grand”.
When she started her job, the Claimant was supposed to work at the Leicester Forest East location, but she was deliberately placed at a different depot for the sole purpose of ensuring that she worked alongside the Third Respondent, who was the Second Respondent’s friend. It was found that the Second Respondent wanted the Third Respondent to suggest to the Claimant that he was a potential romantic interest.
During her employment, the Third Respondent made positive comments to the Claimant about the Second Respondent. Instead of reporting the matter, the Claimant spoke to the Second Respondent to determine what he had said to the Third Respondent. During this conversation, the Second Respondent called the Claimant troublesome and reminded her that she was still on probation.
On 17 April 2017, the Second Respondent complained to HR about the Claimant. In the Tribunal’s view, this was to paint the Claimant in a poor light and it was an attempt to get the first shot before the Claimant complained to HR about the Second Respondent’s conduct.
On the same day, the Claimant raised a grievance detailing the harassment she had endured from the Second Respondent. She also complained that she had been harassed and bullied by the Third Respondent.
Malcolm Dangerfield was appointed to deal with the Claimant’s grievance. He had never previously been the decision maker of a grievance and it was found that he was ill prepared.
Part of the Claimant’s complaint of sexual harassment and bullying was upheld. However, Malcolm Dangerfield found that the complaint did not support the intent that was indicated in the grievance. Further, the company could not relocate the Claimant to another depot because there were no suitable vacancies.
The Claimant unsuccessfully appealed the grievance outcome.
The Claimant was signed off sick with stress from 2 May 2017 and did not return to work. The Claimant resigned on 30 August 2017.
The Claimant’s claims of constructive unfair dismissal and sexual harassment succeeded.
The Claimant was awarded £73,619, to be paid jointly by all three respondents.
This case highlights the importance of having proper procedures in place to effectively deal with complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. Not only will this provide employees with the confidence to raise concerns and limit the risk of claims arising, it will also reduce damages in the event that a claim is pursued through the Tribunal.
It also highlights that claims can be brought against managers and employees, as well as the employer.
Employers should ensure that they have clear grievance, disciplinary and anti-harassment and bullying policies in place and provide appropriate training to all staff members.
Please contact our employment team if you require a review of your existing policies; require bespoke policies drafting for your company; or require in-house training on any of the issues raised in this article.
Head of Team and Partner.