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19 September 2016

Harassment claim - £18,000 injury to feelings award

It is often difficult to assess at what level injury to feelings compensation will be awarded. There are three potential bands of award depending on the severity of the discrimination, but where any particular case sits is not always simple to determine.

In the recent case of AA Solicitors Ltd V Majid, Ms Majid was only employed for a few weeks. During that time she was subjected to numerous acts of sexual harassment by the firms only solicitor. These included asking her to go to the cinema, commenting on her figure, talking about installing a bed in one of the meeting rooms, trying to hug and touch her and other similar acts that made her feel uncomfortable. She succeeded in her claims of sexual harassment and was awarded £18,000 in injury to feelings and aggravated damages.

Whilst some may think this is excessive, the EAT found that her dignity as a worker had been violated and she was treated in a demeaning and disrespectful manner - a different Tribunal may well have made a lower award, but that did not mean that this Tribunal was wrong.

The EAT also commented that, in future, employment tribunals may take the effect of inflation into account when looking at the three bands of award without waiting for further guidance from the EAT. They also considered that the 10% uplift on general damages, which applies in the civil courts, should apply to injury to feelings awards in the tribunals. The effect is that the upper limit of the top band when applying both factors would be just over £48,000.

The importance of proper training and policies on what is, and what is not, acceptable behaviour in the workplace is essential in any organisation, but this is a reminder that getting it wrong can be very costly.