In the case of Ms C v (1) The Governing Body of Warren School and (2) Suffolk County Council the Employment Tribunal held that Ms C, the Claimant, had been unfairly dismissed and subjected indirect sex discrimination after she was required to work in an environment where she had been sexually assaulted. The Employment Tribunal awarded her over £50,000 in compensation (this case is a remedy judgment only).
The facts in Ms C v (1) The Governing Body of Warren School and (2) Suffolk County Council
Ms C, whose details were anonymised for the purpose of this claim, was a teacher at Warren School. On 16 June 2016 there was an incident at the school in which Ms C was sexually assaulted by a 17-year-old male pupil who put his hand up her dress and flapped it against her vagina. When Ms C told him to stop he slapped her on the arm and then, when she walked away, he ran after her and pushed into her back. Ms C was extremely upset by this incident and began a period of absence from work on 17 June 2016 from which she did not return, resigning on 13 December 2016.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ms C v (1) The Governing Body of Warren School and (2) Suffolk County Council
The Employment Tribunal held that requiring Ms C to continue working with the pupil that sexually assaulted her, given his known sexual behaviour, amounted to a requirement that she work in an environment where a sexual assault should take place. The Tribunal therefore found that Ms C’s claim for indirect sex discrimination case succeeded. The Tribunal also held that the event which took place between the assault and the resignation amounted to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, with her resignation therefore amounting to a constructive dismissal.
The Tribunal made the following awards in Ms C’s favour:
Injury to feelings
The Tribunal found that there was a causal link between the discrimination that Ms C suffered (the requirement to work in the same workplace as the student who had sexually assaulted her) – she was knowingly placed at risk, that risk came to pass, and Ms C was injured as a result.
The Tribunal found that the following incidents had contributed to the injury caused to Ms C’s feeling (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Ms Bird (the head teacher) not recognising the assault as a “sexual assault”
- The head teacher’s lack of support
- Warren School not passing on information to Child A’s (the child who sexually assaulted her) new school
- The comment by Ms Bird to the effect that such things are part of the job
- Ms C’s perception that she was criticised for wearing a dress
The Tribunal awarded Ms C £16,000 as compensation for injury to feelings (the middle Vento bracket), based on the fact that Ms C had suffered serious psychological injuries as a result of the discrimination but that most of the incidents occurred after the sexual assault (the most serious incident).
Loss of earnings
The Tribunal made an award for past and future loss of earnings (to the date of the remedy hearing) in respect of the unfair dismissal claim of £16,935.
The Tribunal also made an award of £16,000 for injury to feelings, and £15,473 in respect of loss of income as a result of the discrimination.
The Tribunal also made a Basic Award of £1,916.
The total award of compensation made by the Employment Tribunal (inclusive of interest) amounted to £52,493.
Our solicitors’ view on Ms C v (1) The Governing Body of Warren School and (2) Suffolk County Council
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case involved a detailed analysis by the Employment Tribunal of the circumstances in which an award for injury to feelings may be made, and how the Tribunal will calculate the value of an award for injury to feelings (as well as other heads of compensation). It is therefore worth legal practitioners and laypersons alike reading the case.”
The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here