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 S Cowley v Auto-Sleepers Group Ltd T/a Marquis Leisure: 1401337/2019 the Employment Tribunal awarded the Claimant £15,000 after it held that she had been sexually harassed in the course of her employment.

The factual background of Cowley v Auto-Sleepers Group Ltd T/a Marquis Leisure: 1401337/2019

The ET at Southampton recently heard a case relating to three issues brought by Ms Cowley against her former employer. They were:

  1. That she was directly discriminated against on grounds of her sex contrary to Section 13 of the Equality Act 2010;
  2. That she was discriminated against contrary to Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 in that she was subject to harassment on grounds of sex by her former manager; and
  3. That she had been wrongfully dismissed.

The Claimant also brought a claim a of unfair dismissal. However, as she had not been in the employ of the Respondent for the necessary two years, she was not able to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

Direct discrimination

There were a number of incidents which the Claimant alleged represented direct discrimination by the Respondent. In order to show that she was discriminated against directly, she had to establish that she was treated less favourably on the basis of her protected characteristic (in this case, her sex) than a comparator or hypothetical comparator.

The incidents she alleged ranged from shouting at her over a satnav, to the tone of disciplinary emails sent to her as opposed to two male colleagues. Although the Tribunal concluded that the treatment had not been pleasant, they also concluded that it had not been less favourable treatment on the basis of her sex. As such, the direct discrimination claim was dismissed.

Sexual harassment

The harassment claim centred around a WhatsApp group which was set up by the Claimant’s former manager, Mr Goble, entitled ‘Work Group’. This was made up of colleagues from the workplace; Ms Cowley was added to the group without her knowledge or consent. Mr Goble proceeded to post several messages and images into the group which the Tribunal deemed were unwanted by the Claimant and violated her dignity as a woman. This created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her. As such, the harassment claim was upheld.

The Tribunal did not agree with the Respondent’s submissions that this was conduct which was separate from, and not in the course of, Mr Goble’s employment. They found that it was set up in the course of Mr Gobles employment with the Respondent. Indeed, the only reason that the Claimant and others were joined to the group was because they worked for the respondent.

Want to learn more about your rights relating to sexual harassment?

You can learn more about your rights in the workplace by reading our guide, written by our specialist employment solicitors

Click here to read our guide to the law on sexual harassment in the workplace

Wrongful dismissal

As mentioned above, the Claimant was not eligible for an ordinary unfair dismissal claim. However, wrongful dismissal is a common law claim which relates to a breach of the employment contract. The Respondent had decided to dismiss Ms Cowley before even inviting her to a disciplinary meeting, and the Tribunal found that the respondents had failed to give her any warning under the contractual procedures at all. In fact, quite to the contrary, the Respondent was quite open about the fact that the dismissal related to the Claimant’s upcoming 2-year work anniversary, which would entitle her to greater statutory protections.

As such, the wrongful dismissal claim was upheld, and damages for wrongful dismissal and sexual harassment were agreed at £15,000.

Our lawyers’ comments on the case

Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers should be careful to ensure that any employment-related WhatsApp groups are monitored as much as possible, that any inappropriate behaviour is dealt with, and that staff members are properly trained on workplace equality and anti-harassment. A failure to do so, as in this case, can result in a potentially costly Employment Tribunal case being brought.”

Please find the decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ms S Cowley v Auto-Sleepers Group Ltd T/a Marquis Leisure: 1401337/2019 can be found here

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 2 days 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 4 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 1 month 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