In a pretty shocking case, the Employment Tribunal is currently hearing evidence of how the Nigerian consul (a registered medical doctor) sexually harassed a female colleague of his. Mrs Turley, the Claimant, was subjected to unwanted sexually explicit conduct and emails before being demoted last year. She subsequently quit her job and submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, vicrimisation and constructive dismissal against Dr Igbokwe and her employer, St Luke’s Health Group.
Dr Igbokwe, the alleged perpetrator of the unwanted sexual conduct, made several indecent proposals to Mrs Turley during her employment. On one occasion he allegedly called her into his office and asked her if the locks on the door could be undone from the outside. When Mrs Turley replied “no” the doctor told her that he wanted to have sex with her on his desk. On another occasion Dr Igbokwe apparently made a graphic sexual request to Mrs Turley in the ‘mayor’s parlour’ in the midst of a formal dinner. Mrs Turley declined at the time and told the Tribunal that his actions were “disgusting”. Another incident described by Mrs Turley detailed another occasion when she was called into the doctor’s office. He allegedly asked her to sit down and then undid his trouser zip, requesting that Mrs Turley perform a sexual act on him. She again declined.
Further to these alleged incidents, Mrs Turley’s husband also received a number of emails stating that his wife was a “prostitute” and with links to porn sites. These emails were subsequently traced back to locations in Niger and Nigeria.
Mrs Turley did not complain to her line manager at her employer (St Luke’s Health Group) as she feared she would lose her job if she did so. She was in fact demoted last year and subsequently filed a complaint at the Employment Tribunal after quitting her job.
In order to demonstrate her claim of sexual harassment Mrs Turley would have to show that she subject to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that had the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or of humiliating, degrading or creating an offensive environment for her. On the facts presented Mrs Turley seems to be able to hurdle this barrier.
Her claim for sex discrimination would be based, on the facts, on direct sex discrimination. Mrs Turley would have to show that she was treated less favourably than other (actual or hypothetical) employees of St Luke’s because of her sex.
To show victimisation under s.27 Equality Act 2010 Mrs Turley would have to demonstrate that she had suffered a detriment because she had engaged in a protected act (defined as bringing proceedings under the Equality Act, making an allegation against Dr Igbokwe that he had contravened the Act etc.). This protected act should have been engaged in in good faith. On the facts, it does not seem clear that Mrs Turley has a concrete claim for victimisation but then again we do not have possession of all the facts.
If you think you’re being sexually discriminated against or harassed at work then it is important that you keep a diary of all discriminatory or occurrences of harassment and keep all documentary evidence (such as emails, staff handbooks etc.). Further, if you’re being discriminated against or harassed then it is important to join the harasser (or discriminator) to the claim as well as your employer.