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Case Study: Defending an Employer from Claims of Sexual Harassment and Resolving the Dispute by Offering a Settlement Agreement

Employment Law Team


How Fiona Martin, Employment Law solicitor, defended an employer in Haywards Heath from claims of Sexual Harassment and ensured a fair and thorough grievance and disciplinary process.

The situation

Our client, Horizon Industries, had numerous issues with Michelle, their Chief Executive Officer, the most recent being due to her refusal to support the changes to the company commission scheme. She was suspended on full pay while there was an investigation into potential misconduct/gross misconduct as she had influenced her team not to agree to the changes.

There had been numerous issues with Michelle over the years and the MD decided to offer her a Settlement Agreement so that she would leave as an alternative to a disciplinary process. The compensation offered was based on her notice pay and a further 3 months’ pay.

During the negotiations, Michelle raised complaints that she had found Skype messages between two employees where the female ex-employee, Jenny, had referred to Michelle using a derogatory and sexist phrase. The other male colleague, Stanley, was a manager, still employed by the company. This was because Stanley and Jenny had made complaints against Michelle which formed part of her disciplinary process.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Michelle was invited to raise a formal grievance and we used our HR Consultant team to investigate her grievances and to ensure statements were taken from all employees to make sure the existing disciplinary investigation was thorough and fair.

At her grievance hearing, Michelle produced emails sent from Stanley’s private email address. The content showed he was also guilty of not following the company’s directions on the bonus scheme. Our HR Consultant team asked Stanley for the rest of this email chain and this showed Michelle had been the protagonist in getting him to criticise the bonus scheme and a senior manager.

As a result of our thorough investigation, the manager hearing Michelle’s grievance was able to find that the only person guilty of sexual harassment was Jenny. As she had left the company, her sanction was that the company would not give her a reference in the future.

The company offered a range of remedies including an apology from Stanley for not challenging Jenny’s sexist remarks. The company also offered compulsory Equality and Diversity training to all staff.

The result

Our HR Consultant team’s thorough investigation meant Horizon Industries were not liable for an expensive sexual harassment claim. We offered slightly higher compensation to Michelle of another of an extra £3,300 to cover a small injury to feeling claim. Michelle accepted this. Had her sexual harassment claim been successful, her claim would have been in excess of £90,000.

Our specialist Employment Law Team can help your business with sexual harassment claims and defences as well as offering HR support at internal disciplinary and grievance hearings. Contact us today on 01273 609911, or email

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