Employment Law Case Update: Alrajjal v Media 10 Ltd
Should use of ‘womanly wiles’ be encouraged in a sales environment? Maybe not, if this week’s case tells us anything.
In the case of Alrajjal v Media 10 Ltd the claimant was part of a sales team. She was encouraged by her line manager, Mr Nicholson, to use her ‘female allures’ to improve her sales performance and was encouraged to wear a low cut top. The claimant was later successful in claiming sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
The tribunal found that the unwarranted conduct did relate to the relevant protected characteristic of sex, which had the effect of, even though not the purpose of, violating the claimant’s dignity or creating a humiliating or offensive environment for the claimant. It was held that the manager would not have used this method of improving sales performance among male team members and so there was also direct sex discrimination.
The respondent failed to arrange a formal grievance following the oral complaint by the claimant as the claimant had written a conciliatory email which allowed the respondent to put the matter to one side. The claimant was on probation for three months and following this the expectation was for a raise and open assessment of her skills and performance, as there was no elaborate written probation policy. The claimant’s assessment was delayed and then she was dismissed. The claimant was dismissed despite being the best in terms of sales achieved of all three staff on probation. Another colleague on probation was transferred to an easier sales role and the other was also dismissed.
The claimant contended that she was chosen for dismissal because she had complained about the discrimination or that her complaint was a factor in their decision to dismiss her. The tribunal agreed that the claimant had been victimised following her oral complaint. The respondent failed to persuade the tribunal that the decision to dismiss was not made because of the previous sexual harassment complaint against a key manager.
The tribunal awarded 13 weeks of loss of earnings as they concluded the claimant should have been able to find equivalent employment within four months of her dismissal. The tribunal also found that a ten per cent uplift on the award was appropriate as the respondent had been clumsy and incompetent in failing to follow an appropriate process.
The tribunal also made an assessment as to injury to feelings. They had to consider the emotional impact of the events on the claimant in both the short and medium term. £6,500 was awarded for injury to feelings.
Employers should fully train their managers on recognising discrimination in the workplace to ensure that situations like this one do not arise. In this case the manager did not mean for his words to have a negative impact on the claimant - however the law relies on what the effect of any treatment has been, rather than the intention, when it comes to sex discrimination.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.