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Employment Law Case Update: Sexual Harassment and Bullying
- AuthorEmployment Team
The case of Beaney v Highways England illustrates the importance of an employer properly investigating and dealing with complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Kim Beaney was employed by Highways England from April 2017 until her resignation in August 2017. On starting, she was told she would be a driver and also a trainee highways inspector with an opportunity to progress in the organisation. The interviewing manager, Grant Bosence, took an immediate liking to Ms Beaney and commenced unsolicited text messages to her after the interview.
Initially assigned to the Leicester Forest East depot, Ms Beaney was reassigned by Mr Bosence to the Sandiacre site, because he wanted her working with his close friend, Mr Curtis.
Mr Curtis would often ask Ms Beaney personal questions and frequently reference Mr Bosence in a positive way, suggesting on one occasion that she “could do worse” than Mr Bosence. When she raised concerns about Mr Bosence to Mr Curtis on 10 April 2017, he reassured her that he would speak to him and later stated he had done so.
At an induction session on 12 April 2017, Ms Beaney was informed of her site relocation by another trainee. She was also concerned that she was the only trainee that had not received a key fob or identification badge. When she asked about this, Mr Bosence informed her she was being “troublesome” and should speak with Mr Curtis. Ms Beaney then informed Mr Bosence of her concerns over their relationship and reiterated that it was platonic. She also requested to work with another inspector and at her originally assigned location, but these requests were refused.
On 13 April 2017, Ms Beaney was told by Mr Curtis that Mr Bosence had alleged he had a relationship with her - an allegation she denied. Ms Beaney consequently left work the same day and said she would raise a formal complaint. On 17 April 2017, the day before Ms Beaney returned to work, Mr Bosence raised his own complaint about her, stating that she had a poor attitude and had left work without consent.
Ms Beaney then raised a grievance against Mr Bosence, also on 17 April 2017, saying he had used the personal details from her job application to contact her in an attempt to initiate a romantic relationship and that he did not stop when asked. Ms Beaney also included the issues she had experienced with Mr Curtis, and stated she had been the subject of harassment and bullying.
The grievance was investigated by Malcolm Dangerfield who, on 7 June 2017, upheld the part of Ms Beaney's complaint that related to the sexual harassment and bullying, but not the suggested intent of Mr Bosence. Mr Dangerfield said he would request a review of the situation from senior management and would personally speak to Mr Curtis, but refused Ms Beaney’s request to be relocated to another depot.
Ms Beaney was then signed off sick from 2 May 2017 until 31 August 2017. Ms Beaney appealed against the outcome of her grievance on 8 June 2017, but it was rejected with no further recommendations on how to resolve the issue.
After the outcome of her appeal, Ms Beaney resigned in an email on 30 August 2017, reporting her multiple attempts to complain about the behaviour of the managers and citing a breakdown of trust and confidence. She also raised claims of sexual harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation against Highways England.
The Employment Tribunal (ET) upheld her claims, stating that she had been “deliberately placed at a different depot” for the sole purpose of Mr Bosence pursuing a “potential romantic interest”. They also held that Mr Dangerfield had not been properly prepared for the grievance meeting, as he had only seen the documentation a short time before it took place.
The ET ordered Highways England, Mr Curtis and Mr Bosence to jointly pay her a sum near to £74,000 in compensation for the treatment she received.
This case illustrates the importance of conducting thorough investigations into any complaints and the need for appropriate procedures to detail what constitutes improper behaviour. It is also advisable to have suitable training in place for managers to deal with complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.
If you have any questions regarding this article, or you need advice on the investigation process, you can call our Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email email@example.com.
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