22 September 2011 #Employment
A BT telesales worker earning £20,000 p.a., who left her job after several incidents of alleged bullying, has been awarded a record £290,000 payout from BT after her complaints of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal were upheld. This sum represents the highest Employment Tribunal payout in the past year and included damages for personal injury, loss of potential future earnings and injury to feelings. The Tribunal found that the line manager responsible for the harassment had displayed a bullying management style and had used “obscene, homophobic and racist language.”
According to the Tribunal, despite persistent complaints to her employer, Petrina Taylor received a reaction that “fell woefully short of what should be expected from a company of this size.” After Ms Taylor raised an internal grievance with BT the line manager responsible was simply asked to apologise. Ms Taylor felt “pressured into accepting” his apology and thereafter, no further action was taken. Allegedly, up to 10 women have recently brought Tribunal proceedings against BT for sexual harassment, although it appears that many of these cases have settled out of court.
This case acts as a reminder to businesses of the importance of investigating workplace grievances thoroughly in order to avoid costly Tribunal hearings and potentially vast payouts. If the “problems had been properly addressed by BT... the conduct would not have continued and this claim would never have been brought” the Tribunal concluded.