An award of £14,000 for injury to feelings of a trainee solicitor who suffered sex discrimination during a placement at a Bolton firm was not excessive, an employment appeal has ruled.
The case arose over a claim that the trainee, Miss Majid, had suffered 40 or more acts of sexual harassment by Mr A Ali, principal of AA Solicitors, ranging from asking her to go out to the cinema, talking about installing a bed in the office, attempting to hug her, touching her arms, squeezing and rubbing her hands when shaking hands.
In 2014 the tribunal ruled that the claimant was a young woman at the start of her professional career and the respondent was an older man in a position of power and authority.
It noted that there was evidence of visits to the claimant’s GP resulting from stress and anxiety because of the harassment.
The tribunal awarded £14,000 compensation for injury to feelings, along with aggravated damages of £4,000 and compensation for loss of earnings of £2,111. It also recommended that the principal attend equal opportunities training.
On appeal, the respondents in the case claimed that the award of £14,000 was 'manifestly excessive' for conduct which was' no more than modestly obnoxious and might properly be characterised as gauche and insinuating rather than aggressive, and was of brief duration'.
However in AA Solicitors and Mr A Ali v Miss S Majid, the employment appeal tribunal said it did not accept that description.
Ali 'did not treat her as a worker; from the first meeting in the job interview he treated her in a demeaning and disrespectful manner as a woman evidently to be present in the office for his pleasure and gratification rather than to work and develop her skills as a lawyer.'
It ruled that the level of compensation fell within the middle band set out in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police .