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Martin Searle Solicitors

Case Study: Defending a Claim of Sexual Harassment

Employment Law Solicitors providing employment tribunal advocacy

Summary

How Nicole Tovey, an Employment Law Solicitor in our Brighton office, helped a senior employee successfully defend allegations of sexual harassment.

The situation

Oliver, a Marketing Manager at an estate agent, contacted us after he had been suspended from work following a complaint of sexual harassment being made against him by a junior employee. In particular, he was accused of sending inappropriate text messages and emails of a sexual nature to the employee and of treating her unfavourably when his conduct was not reciprocated.

Oliver was invited to an investigation meeting and told that the outcome could result in disciplinary action for gross misconduct which would result in his immediate dismissal.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Nicole took instructions from Oliver and requested a copy of the Investigatory Report. This made a number of findings against him, including sexual harassment.

On examining the report, Nicole found that the employer’s investigation was not even handed. It was clear that the conclusions drawn were not backed up by the evidence provided..

Some examples include:

  • On reviewing the messages between the parties, it was evident that the complainant had deleted messages that she had sent to our client. No further investigations were made to find out what she had deleted to see if his messages were “unwanted”.
  • Both parties had sent each other inappropriate messages of a sexual nature, however, the report only focussed on the texts sent by Oliver.
  • The conduct complained of did not fall within the legal definition of sexual harassment. This is because it was not “unwanted conduct” that had the purpose or effect of violating the complainant’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her.
  • Oliver’s statement was not considered as part of the investigations nor referred to within the report.
  • Important witnesses, that could have assisted in defending these allegations, had not been interviewed as part of the investigation.

Nicole requested that the disciplinary hearing was postponed until a fair and thorough investigation had been carried out.

The Employer carried out further investigations and re-interviewed all witnesses. It also interviewed the witnesses that had not been interviewed before and re-interviewed the complainant.

Nicole was then able to prepare a disciplinary defence statement for Oliver based on these investigation findings to use at his disciplinary hearing.

The result

Oliver was issued with a final written warning which was to remain on his record for six months. He accepted that his conduct had been unprofessional but he was not found guilty of sexual harassment . Oliver was relieved not to have been dismissed and he gave assurances to his employer that he would not behave like this in the future.

For expert advice on dealing with sexual harassment claims in the workplace, contact our expert Employment Law Solicitors on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk

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