Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

In the case of Ms Shotton v Mark Harris Upholstery Limited & anor (ET/1401354/2018), the Employment Tribunal upheld the Claimant’s claim that she was harassed over an extended period by the Managing Director of the company she was employed by, awarding her £25,000 in compensation.

The facts in Ms Shotton v Mark Harris Upholstery Limited & anor

Mark Harris Upholstery Limited (the ‘Respondent’) was a small business with ten employees selling foam and re-upholstery supplies operating in Somerset. Mr Harris (the ‘Second Respondent’) was Managing Director of the Respondent.  Ms Shotton (the ‘Claimant’) was employed by the Respondent from 7 May 2013 to 16 April 2018 when she resigned.

In the Claimant’s evidence she said that at first the Second Respondent was charming and funny and they became friends.  However, she said that he went on to gradually introduce sexually abusive acts, including spontaneously kissing her, stroking and sniffing her hair, putting his hands inside her clothes, sexually hugging her, asking for sex and sexual favours.

Prior to a meeting on 18 November 2016 when the Claimant protested about the harassment, it was unclear the extent to which the Claimant found the treatment unwelcome.  However, at that meeting, which the Claimant recorded, she referred to numerous incidents of the Second Respondent demanding physical contact including grabbing her waist, requesting she accompany him to a hotel room, requesting that he be allowed to ‘squeeze her tits’.  There was an implicit admission from the Second Respondent that these events had taken place and the Claimant protested against the demands for contact.  The transcript also revealed that the Claimant and the Second Respondent agreed that matters would be put in the past and that there would be changes in the Second Respondent’s behaviour towards the Claimant.

However, the Second Respondent was unable to overcome his infatuation with the Claimant and went on to take out his frustrations on the Claimant in the workplace.  When the Claimant rejected his advances he would sulk, get angry and aggressive and ignore her.

There was a further meeting between the Claimant and the Second Respondent on the 7 November 2017 where the Claimant again complained about the Second Respondent’s intimidatory behaviour.  Incidents complained of included a slap on the hand, being hit around the back of head with a piece of foam and being referred to as a ‘skinny bitch’.  Again, the Claimant recorded the meeting and the Second Respondent seemed to take the view that the Claimant should put up with some physical contact as part of their working relationship.

On the 10 January 2018 the Clamant had a performance appraisal.  The Claimant was concerned about her job security.  The Second Respondent made mention of the Claimant using the Respondent’s internet for personal use but assured the Claimant that this was not a problem.  There was also a discussion about the Claimant being ‘off her game’ and relations between the Claimant and the Second Respondent.  The Second Respondent said the Claimant was at times ‘difficult’ and ‘prickly’.  He went on to say ‘I wanna be able to touch you on the arm without thinking “fuck me, I’m Harvey Weinsteining in the poor woman”’. The Second Respondent asked if he and the Claimant could go back to where they were and when the Claimant agreed the Second Respondent started to cuddle her.  The Second Respondent went on to ask, ‘Can I squeeze your bum, no, squeeze your tit, can I Harvey Weinstein your arse?’.  The Claimant gave evidence that she tolerated the Second Respondent’s behaviour because she was a single mum and fearful for her job, but had felt dirty, violated and ashamed after the incident.

On 17 January 2017 the Claimant prepared a letter headed ‘informal concerns’ where she complained about the Second Respondent’s behaviour.  The Claimant was then signed off sick for the period from 25 January 2018 and her resignation on 16 April 2018.

On 10 February 2018 the Claimant was invited to an investigation meeting into her behaviour. One of the allegations concerned her internet usage.  The Claimant’s grievance was heard on 23 February 2018 and was not upheld.  The Claimant appealed against the grievance finding in a letter dated 16 March 2018 and this was also not upheld.

The investigation into the Claimant’s behaviour continued with two remaining charges, unauthorised internet usage and undermining the Second Respondent and these were classified as charges of gross misconduct.  The Claimant did not attend the disciplinary hearing and went on to resign, giving her reasons as the way her grievance had been dealt with, the treatment she had received from the Seven Respondent and the trumped up disciplinary charges.

The Claimant went on to bring claims for harassment, direct sex discrimination, constructive unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET)

The Claimant’s complaint of harassment was upheld.  The Employment Tribunal held that there was conduct of a sexual nature and considered carefully whether or not that conduct was unwanted.  They held that at the meeting on the 18 November 2016 the Claimant had attempted to warn off the Second Respondent and thereafter his behaviour was unwanted.  They also held that whilst the purpose of the sexual conduct was not to violate the Claimant’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, it did have that effect.  The Respondent were ordered to pay her £25,000 as compensation.  Her claims for constructive unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal were also upheld.

Our solicitors’ views on the case of Ms Shotton v Mark Harris upholstery Limited (1) Leonard Mark Harris (2)

Sacha Barrett, a Senior Associate in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case: “this case demonstrates that conduct of a sexual nature should always be avoided in the workplace, even where it appears on the surface to be between two consenting adults.  Employer’s should have robust written policies in place setting out their position and making it clear to employee’s that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ms Shotton v (1) Mark Harris upholstery Limited & (2) Leonard Mark Harris (ET/1401354/2018) can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.78 Average

138 Reviews

Richard O

Chris at Redmans is my go-to legal expert when it comes to employee-related matters. His depth of knowledge, experience and considered approach to problems and their solutions is highly valuable. I cannot recommend Redmans highly enough.

Posted 2 days ago

Rory Y

They provide me with timely and clear advice!

Posted 2 days ago

Steven C

Redmans handled my settlement with my employer quickly, decisively and to a standard that I was very happy with. I would in similar circumstances contract them again

Posted 2 days ago

Deepthi K

Transparent. Clear communication. Prompt reply’s. Saves lot of time. Very satisfied.

Posted 2 days ago

Anonymous

Chris and Sacha did a fantastic job and negotiated a significant better settlement agreement

Posted 2 days ago

Dino D

I did get a very swift and god service from Redmans

Posted 2 days ago

Stephanie H

Clear, prompt, effective support from Chris which has been very much appreciated. Thank you again.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

I would highly recommend Redmans Solicitors, the team were very friendly and my case was dealt with professionally and efficiently. Thank you!

Posted 1 month ago

Shane M

Very professional, welcome advice at a crucial time. Always available and reasonable cost.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

My case was relatively straight-forward. But even so, working with Redmans was easy, quick, professional & clear. Many thanks

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

The team were very helpful and answered all my questions regarding my redundancy. Initially I had a call with one of the representatives who escalated my request to a suitable employment solicitor. We arranged a call to discuss the settlement and she helped answer all my questions. We then mainly contacted through email which helped resolve the settlement quickly and convently. Thanks for all the help.

Posted 1 month ago

Djaouida T

You have good communication.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Fast and professional. A highly recommended company for employment related issues.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Very professional service.

Posted 1 month ago

Brittany

I was very grateful for Redmans to treat my case with respect and discretion. At the time, I was very new to London and it was meaningful to have someone on my side and win the case for me. Without any doubt, I would definitely recommend Redmans Solicitors to anyone who is in need of it.

Posted 9 months ago

Jake L

Chris is very professional and calm. Very attentive and patient, been a positive experience having Chris represent me, and would recommend him.

Posted 10 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent service. It was a pleasure to work with Chris H, who is brilliant at what he does and very efficient. Their Senior Associate Rana T. is also very knowledgeable and resolves any queries speedily and efficiently. My issue could unfortunately not be resolved, but that was due to my employer and not the firm. Redmans however did all they could. I would definitely recommend them.

Posted 10 months ago

Anonymous

Very pleasant and quick to deal with. Mnay thanks.

Posted 11 months ago

Anonymous

Easy to get hold of. Quick.

Posted 11 months ago

Owen J

Very helpful, efficient service.

Posted 11 months ago

Anonymous

I am very lucky that I worked with Mr. Chris Hadrill and he managed my case very progressively with an analytical approach and trustfully. Of course with a very positive result. I strongly recommend Mr. Hadrill to any one seeking for a successful result from a highly qualified solicitor.

Posted 11 months ago