Traumatised Sexual Harassment Victim Receives Six-Figure Compensation


The mental scars left by sexual harassment and victimisation at work can derail even the most promising career. In a case on point, a highly qualified construction industry trainee who was targeted by her own mentor was awarded more than £350,000 in compensation by an Employment Tribunal (ET).

After doing well at school and university, the woman was dismissed from her first job after making harassment allegations. She lodged ET complaints and, although the matter was settled at an early stage, the proceedings were the subject of a public judgment.

She was subsequently delighted to obtain an 18-month training contract with a major employer. However, she resigned 15 months into the contract after history repeated itself: she suffered sexual harassment at the hands of her male mentor, also being subjected to victimisation by him and others, including those whose task it was to resolve her complaints.

Attempts were made to influence the investigation of her complaints and a copy of the public judgment was circulated amongst her colleagues. Perhaps most woundingly, the mentor was not dismissed but remained employed until his resignation.

The impact on her mental health was profound. She was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, including anxiety and depressed mood. She made over 200 job applications over a period of almost two years, almost all of them unsuccessful. To make ends meet, she eventually took on a human resources role that was far removed from the career path she had set her heart on.

After she again launched ET proceedings, the employer conceded liability. It admitted that she had been subjected to 26 acts of sexual harassment and eight acts of victimisation, contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Various matters concerning the valuation of her claim remained in dispute, however.

Ruling on the matter, the ET found that, despite her strong academic record and ability, she would be prejudiced in the employment market for five years. She would have to disclose her mental health difficulties to prospective employers, who might also be deterred by the fact that her CV did not proceed in a straight line but indicated a change of tack that would require explanation.

Save in one instance, where she had unreasonably turned down a job offer, she had taken appropriate steps to mitigate her loss. She had demonstrated resourcefulness and resilience in the past and, with the support of her loving family, it was to be hoped that she would in time recover her desired career trajectory.

Amongst other awards made by the ET were £40,000 for injury to feelings, £10,000 for psychiatric injury and £5,000 in aggravated damages. Her past and future financial losses were valued at more than £130,000. After making allowance for the fact that she would receive all the money in a single tax year, thereby losing the benefit of her tax-free personal allowance, the ET’s total award came to £357,004.

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