In the recent EAT decision of AA Solicitors Ltd (T/A AA Solicitors) & Anor v Majid UKEAT heard on 23rd June 2016 the EAT dismissed an appeal from AA Solicitors finding that an award of £14k was not an excessive award to an female employee who has been subjected to approximately 40 acts of sexual harassment in a 6 week period before her employment was terminated.
The Claimant, Miss Majid, brought her claim for sex discrimination arising from her brief time as an employee with the First Respondent law firm, the principal of which was and is the Second Respondent, Mr Ali. The background was, briefly, that the Claimant was a legal practice course student and aspiring lawyer; and in early 2013 she sought work from the First Respondent, a firm of solicitors in Bolton.
She met the Second Respondent on 24 April 2013 at the offices of the First Respondent and, in brief, thereafter began working for the firm until the First Respondent purported to make her redundant in or around late May 2013, about six weeks later. The Claimant alleged in her claim that the Second Respondent had committed around 40 or more acts of sexual harassment against her, ranging from asking her to go out to the cinema, talking about installing a bed in one of the rooms at the office, attempting to hug her, touching her arms, squeezing and rubbing her hands when shaking hands and making her feel uncomfortable by these types of act.
In the judgment of the EAT they felt the Second Respondent's conduct, as found by the Tribunal, violated the Claimant's dignity as a worker. They stated he did not treat her as a worker; from the first meeting in the job interview he treated her in a demeaning and disrespectful manner as a woman evidently to be present in the office for his pleasure and gratification rather than to work and develop her skills as a lawyer.
The EAT commented that they believed when she politely rejected his advances, he turned nasty and she lost her job as a result.
The EAT dismissed the appeal. They did not accept the Respondent's submission that this was a case merely of persistent unwanted attentions but without serious physical contact, that was no worse than gauche and insinuating. The Respondent, as found by the Tribunal, had violated the Claimant's dignity as a worker. The award was not even at the top of the middle Vento band. It was above the middle but not at the upper limit. So, whilst it could be characterised as perhaps on the high side, it was not, in the EAT's judgment, manifestly excessive so as to justify the EAT interfering.