Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been ordered by an Employment Tribunal to pay Helen Marks, its former HR director, £832,000 after it was found that she had been discriminated against by the NHS Trust and unfairly dismissed from her post.
In summer 2015 the Nottingham Employment Tribunal heard evidence from Mrs Marks that the chairman of the NHS Trust, Alan Baines, had made unwanted sexual advances towards her. Mrs Marks, who was employed on a £99,000-per-annum salary as the HR Director for the Trust, and Mr Baines had previously been friends but their relationship deteriorated after Mr Baines informed Mrs Marks that he loved her shortly prior to her getting married in 2012. The Employment Tribunal also heard evidence that in October 2012 Mrs Marks had been ‘delighted’ when another member of staff failed to get a promotion, and that Mr Baines, who was on the appointments panel, subsequently went into her office and kissed her, believing that he had obtained for her the result that she desired. After Mrs Marks informed Mr Baines that she felt uncomfortable about their relationship, contact between the two ‘reduced substantially’.
The Employment Tribunal was also told that Mr Baines had reacted badly when another colleague bought Mrs Marks a glass of prosecco on a night out in March 2013, believing that she was having a relationship with the colleague. He subsequently sent her a ‘barrage of nasty texts’, including one that called her a ‘whore’ and accused of her sleeping with the colleague. A number of weeks after this incident Mr Baines accused Mrs Marks again of having an affair and threatened that he ‘intended to humiliate her’.
Matters came to a head when Mr Baines received a complaint from a colleague later in 2013 that Mrs Marks was bullying them. The Tribunal heard that Mr Baines was ‘clearly delighted’ about the complaint and that he made a decision based on the allegations of bullying that the NHS Trust should ‘dispense with her services’. Mrs Marks was suspended at that point and escorted from the premises. She subsequently resigned from her role with the organisation and made an Employment Tribunal claim for sexual harassment and constructive dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal ruled in Mrs Marks’ favour in her claims for unfair dismissal and sexual harassment in summer 2015, holding that Mr Baines had harassed Mrs Marks, and that Mr Baines and Mr Trenchard had ‘colluded’ to force Mrs Marks out of her job. A remedies hearing took place in November 2015 and it has now been reported that the Employment Tribunal has awarded Mrs Marks £832,000 for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, and interest.
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This is one of the highest payouts made in a case in 2015, and appears to be a categorical loss for Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Businesses must be careful to ensure that any complaints made by employees are dealt with in a fair way and that no ‘knee-jerk’ decisions to suspend or discipline an employee are made – if such ‘knee-jerk’ decisions are made then it could, as in this case, lead to expensive and time-consuming Employment Tribunal proceedings.”
The Telegraph’s report of the case can be found here.