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 first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    Testimonials

    4.80 Average

    312 Reviews

    Anonymous

    I have been very pleased with the support I got from Redmans Solicitors on my case with my employer. Caroline has always helped me to put things in perspective and showed me different scenarios ultimately to help me taking the right decision. She was very professional and always available when I needed, and at the same time also emphatic which I found also really important to establish a strong relationship. Will definitely recommend!

    Posted 1 day ago

    Anonymous

    Prompt and efficient response to my enquiries. Excellent negotiating skills with my employer which considerably improved the terms of my settlement agreement.

    Posted 1 day ago

    Anonymous

    Very quick and professional service , Rana was very helpful

    Posted 2 days ago

    James G

    Very professional, knowledgeable and kept me informed at every stage of my case. I would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 3 days ago

    Pravina P

    Chris was really good and help solve my issues with current company. I would recommend him to anyone.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Paul L

    Sacha was extremely helpful in my matter. I would not hesitate you use Sacha or Redmonds again. Everyone was very helpful.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Monique N

    I had Mel Chin helping me with a settlement and she was very professional and reliable throughout my case. Mel provided me with a good understanding of what was happening and gave suggestions on routes I could take. My case was resolved and closed promptly although the opposing side were very difficult to deal with. A very big thank you to Mel and Chris.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Jackie C

    My first ever experience needing the services of a solicitor; cannot speak highly enough of Mel and Chris’s personable, reassuring and straight to the point advice in dealing with my settlement agreement. They put me at ease during an extremely stressful time. I am equally as happy with the outcome, as l am their professional services.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    ""

    Really happy with the service. All very efficient. Mel rattled through things very fast, however was great whenever I needed to stop and ask a question! Would definitely return to Redmans if I ever needed Legal advice.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Peter F

    Very helpful and clear advice, would highly recommend.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    William A

    Second time I have had to use Redmans. They did not disappoint. They are fast , efficient and friendly. I have already recommended them to friends and colleagues. I hope I dont have to use them again but if I have to , they are the solicitors for me.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Fleeta C

    Great service with tantastic communications. The solicitor responsible is extremely knowledgeable and was responsible for bringing a timely and desired solution.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Veronica M

    Extremely helpful, starting from a request for advice at very short notice, to dedicating time for me to understand and review all documents thoroughly.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Sophie R

    Very efficient and professional service. Chris was very empathetic, knowledgeable and personable. Highly recommended.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Melanie M

    Very happy with the detailed advice provided from Redmans. They also helped me to secure a higher settlement than originally offered by my employer and were extremely diligent. I first spoke with Chris at relatively short notice and then Sacha dealt with my case. Would definitely recommend and use again in the future if needed.

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Redmans helped me with a work related issue, which was resolved quickly and professionally. I would definitely recommend this company.

    Posted 1 month ago

    James F

    Great people, really friendly and professional helped with everything that I needed.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anusha S

    My case was handled by Sacha who was very thorough and helped me to achieve a good outcome with my employer. Sacha was very personal, professional and helped me during quite a stressful time, so I am hugely grateful to her and to Redmans. This was my first time engaging with a law firm so I wasn't sure what to expect but I can definitely say that it was a good experience overall and I ended up better off due to having the help of an experienced and proactive solicitor on my side.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Diane P

    So grateful that I contacted Redmans to deal with my Redundancy Agreement. Everything from the initial call to the completion of the matter was professional, efficient and effective. I was listened to, had everything explained simply and kept informed of every step. I received super advice and the costs were very competitive. I would highly recommend them to anyone seeking similar help. First class service - thank you

    Posted 1 month ago

    Chris L

    It was a very efficient and effective service - Would recommend.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Exceeded my expectations. Very professional and proactive. I highly recommend them.

    Posted 1 month ago