10 September 2010 #Employment
The recent ET case of Furlong v BMC Software Ltd ET/2701283/09 is a good example of why employers should ensure employees and agents receive training regarding equal opportunities and anti discrimination law.
The Claimant filed a number of claims in the Tribunal, including direct sex discrimination and harassment and victimisation on the ground of sex. She alleged that part of the culture of the company was to entertain clients in lap dancing clubs and brothels and that this was discriminatory against women. Ms Furlong raised a formal grievance about this and other issues but it was not upheld and neither was her appeal.
The tribunal held that the company`s past use of lap dancing clubs (and potentially prostitutes, which it found had certainly been discussed) was direct sex discrimination. This was because such things are more likely to be offensive to women, than to men. It also found the actions amounted to harassment. The Tribunal further held that the company`s failure to investigate Ms Furlong`s grievance properly was an act of victimisation.
The Claimant was awarded £12,000 for injury to feelings, over £20,000 for loss of earnings, and £2,000 for personal injury as she had suffered from depression following the incidents.
Ms Furlong is among the small number of women who complain about sexual harassment according to a survey published by HR Consultancy Reabur. According to the survey of 1,496 women, 8% percent have felt sexually harassed in the work place, but less than half (44%) have reported it. When asked why, 1 in 3 (32%) said they felt ‘it would affect their future career` and a further 1 in 5 (21%) did not think that the complaint would be ‘taken seriously`.
Employmentbuddy has a comprehensive Equal opportunities policy and Guidance notes available as well as guidance on Handling harassment complaints available for full subscribers to the site.