A Virgin Atlantic employee’s claims for discrimination and harassment have come to a full hearing in the Employment Tribunal in London.
Mr Ashley Roberts, 30, works at Virgin Atlantic. He submitted a claim for sexual harassment to the Employment Tribunal last year after taking employment law advice on the merits of his claim as he thought that he was being sexually harassed by a colleague.
The Employment Tribunal in Croydon, south London, heard that Mr Roberts had suffered alleged sexual harassment from a colleague (named “H” for legal reasons) at Virgin Atlantic since December 2007. Mr Roberts stated that he had complained about this harassment to Human Resources at Virgin Atlantic last year – including submitting a dossier of 29 complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination – but that no substantive action had been taken to address the problem. The 29 incidents alleged included (but were not limited to):
- H telling Mr Roberts that he was “perfect” and asking whether he would like to sit next to him in the office
- H telling Mr Roberts that he liked performing sex acts
- H asking Mr Roberts whether he shaved his chest and genitals, with H telling Mr Roberts that he did
- H rubbing Mr Roberts’ leg while he was sitting next to him in the office
- H telling Mr Roberts that he took viagra to ensure that he was constantly aroused
- H telling Mr Roberts that “your bum looks nice in those jeans”
- H telling Mr Roberts that he liked his Calvin Klein underwear
- H regularly asking Mr Roberts about his sexual orientation
- H telling Mr Roberts that they should share a room on a potential trip to India
H totally denied the allegations in a witness statement and stated that the Employment Tribunal litigation had put him and his team under a great deal of stress for the past 12 months.
Judgment by the Employment Tribunal is expected to be given later this year.
Under s.26 of the Equality Act 2010 sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful. Sexual harassment occurs if sexual harassment or unwanted conduct of a sexual nature occurs which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant or of violating their dignity. Both the employer of the harasser and the harassing employee can be sued for sexual harassment. If a claim for sexual harassment succeeds then the successful party may receive compensation for (as applicable) injury to feelings, psychiatric injury, aggravated damages, exemplary damages and lost earnings (among others). The Tribunal also has the power to make recommendations and declarations.
Chris Hadrill, an employment law solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that “sexual harassment in the workplace is a particularly serious allegation to make for both the employee concerned and their employer. As little documentation normally exists that records the relevant incidents an Employment Tribunal claim normally rests on whether the employee claiming sexual harassment can convince the Employment Tribunal that what they are saying is true”.
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