In the case of Miss Munro v The Co-operative Ltd ET/3200668/2016, the Employment Tribunal held that a female employee was entitled to almost £30,000 in compensation after being sexually discriminated against at work. However, the Employment Tribunal significantly reduced the sums awarded to the employee on the basis that her mental health issues were caused by other, significant contributory factors, in addition to the sexual discrimination she suffered at work.
The facts in Miss K Munro v The Cooperative Group Ltd
Miss Munro worked for The Cooperative Group Ltd (“the Co-op”). She brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal for sexual discrimination harassment arising from her treatment by a work colleague who, amongst other things, habitually stared at and followed her. On one occasion when Miss Munro objected to being followed by the colleague, he said to her ‘I think you are quite pretty and I would not mind a bit’. She also made a claim for victimisation after raising a grievance about her colleague’s behaviour, after which she was suspended and told she might be dismissed as her allegations were serious. Miss Munro was signed off work for a period following the events. Her GP notes referred to work related stress as well as life events including her losing three grandparents in quick succession and her boyfriend having ended their relationship.
Miss Munro subsequently made various claims in the Employment Tribunal for sex discrimination harassment, direct sex discrimination and victimisation.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET)
The Employment Tribunal upheld some of Miss Munro’s complaints of direct sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
At the remedy hearing Miss Munro made a claim for the financial loss she suffered as a result of receiving statutory sick pay for a period of sickness absence she argued was caused by the discriminatory treatment, rather than the full pay she would have received if she had not been discriminated against and had remained at work. At the remedy hearing the Employment Tribunal also had to decide to what extent was Miss Munro’s psychiatric and psychological injury was caused by the Co-op and their employee’s discriminatory acts?
Causation as to personal injury
The Employment Tribunal felt that Miss Munro’s evidence at the remedy hearing was less convincing than her evidence at the liability hearing. At the liability hearing she gave evidence about the effect that splitting up with her boyfriend had on her mental health and in addition her GP notes clearly referred to her need for bereavement counselling. However, at the remedy hearing she argued that her GP had over empathised the causes of her depressive illness as being related to her bereavements and her relationship break up. The Employment Tribunal found that the predominant causes of Miss Munro’s depressive illness were factors other than the sex discrimination she experienced at the Co-Op and that the two were divisible. They apportioned 25% of the harm Miss Munro suffered as being caused by the Co-op’s unlawful discrimination and reduced her awards accordingly.
Loss of Earnings
The Employment Tribunal did make an award in respect of the financial loss suffered by Miss Munro for the period where she received statutory sick pay rather than the full pay she would have received had she remained at work. However, this award was also reduced by 75% to reflect the Employment Tribunal’s findings as to the predominant causes of Miss Munro’s depressive illness.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Ms Munro £29,864.68 in compensation (plus interest), comprising of:
- • Loss of earnings: £1,114.68 (25% of £4,458.17)
• Personal Injury award: £3,750 (25% of 15,000)
• Injury to feelings: £25,000
Our solicitors’ views on the case of in Miss K Munro v The Cooperative Group Ltd
Sacha Barrett, an associate in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case: “This case demonstrates that, following the case of Hampshire County Council v Wyatt, where the evidence shows that a psychiatric injury has one or more separate material causes (in addition to a respondent’s unlawful act or breach of duty), where the resultant harm is truly divisible, an Employment Tribunal will conduct an analysis to estimate and award compensation for that part of the harm only for which the respondent is responsible.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Miss K Munro v The Cooperative Group Ltd: 3200668/2016 can be found here.