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Female driver who was relocated by her manager was constructively dismissed

A female driver has been awarded almost £74,000 by an Employment Tribunal after it was found that her manager and supervisor had harassed her. The manager had relocated her to a different place of work in order to pursue a romantic connection with her.

The driver, Kim Beaney, worked for Highways England from April 2017, and resigned in August 2017 following the harassment.

The Tribunal found that her manager, Grant Bosence, had relocated her to a different depot, where a friend of his, Steven Curtis, became her supervisor. Beaney had originally been allocated to the Leicester Forest East area, but was reassigned to Sandiacre. It was found that Bosence’s motivation had been to position himself as a romantic interest to Beaney, and to “exert authority” over her.

The Tribunal ruled that behaviour of Bosence and Curtis had “marred the course” of Beaney’s employment. Several other claims of harassment were dismissed.

When she applied for the job, Beaney had been interviewed by Bosence, who later messaged her using the mobile number from her application form. Beaney also told the Tribunal that Curtis suggested that she could “do worse” than him in a romantic partner and spoke about him in encouraging terms.

On 12 April, Beaney went through an induction at work, where she learned that she had been relocated. Beaney rang Bosence about her concerns. She was worried that colleagues may question the nature of her relationship with Bosence due to his behaviour. She made requests to relocate, and to work with another inspector, but both were refused.

On 13 April, in a conversation with Curtis, Beaney denied any romantic relationship with Bosence, but Curtis said that Bosence had told him otherwise. Following this conversation, Beaney told Curtis that she was going to file a formal complaint. She left work and contacted the Highway England’s employee telephone helpline. She did not return to work until 18 April.

On 17 April, Bosence filed his own complaint against Beaney to HR, alleging that she had a bad attitude and had left work without permission on 13 April. The Tribunal found that this had been a “pre-emptive strike” by Bosence to paint Beaney in a “poor light” as he knew she was going to report him to HR.

On the same day, Beaney wrote to HR to raise a grievance against Bosence. She said he had continuously harassed her and refused to accept that she was not romantically interested. She also referred to the issues with Curtis and claimed that she had been subjected to harassment and bullying.

The grievance was investigated by Malcolm Dangerfield, a specialist manager with Highways England. The Tribunal found Dangerfield to have been “ill-prepared” for the grievance hearing on 24 April.

Dangerfield upheld part of Beaney’s complaint of sexual harassment and bullying. He found that the evidence supported the events of her complaint, but did not support “the intent that is indicated” in Beaney’s grievance. Dangerfield said that he would request senior management to review the situation and take further action if necessary. However, he rejected Beaney’s request to be moved from Sandiacre.

From 2 May, Beaney was signed off with stress for one month, and submitted further sick notes until August. She never returned to work there.

Beaney appealed against the grievance outcome on 8 June, but her appeal was not upheld.

On 30 August, Beaney resigned, stating that she had no trust and confidence in her employer due to failure to act upon her complaints.

Before her resignation, on 8 August, Beaney brought claims of sexual harassment, direct discrimination and victimisation against Highways England, Bosence and Curtis at the Employment Tribunal. The Tribunal ordered the respondents to jointly pay Beaney £73,619, consisting of financial losses, injury to feelings, and damages and interest.

The case demonstrates the need for employers to ensure that investigations, especially those that are complex, are carried out objectively and competently.  Hattons can help employers by walking them through a thorough investigative process or by carrying out the investigation on behalf of the employer.

Posted on: 16/Jan/2020 Posted in: Employment Law
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