Firm fined £9k for sexist abuse

Sexual Discrimination

20.02.2009

A secretary has been awarded £9,000 in damages for the "systematic and continuous" sexist abuse she suffered at the hands of her employer.

Sarah Crosbie, 21, was the only female worker at the Plumb Center in Torquay, Devon, where male colleagues bullied her over a period of two years.

An industrial tribunal in Exeter heard that Miss Crosbie had been called a "b*tch" and "wh*re" by her boss, and finally left the firm when she was the only employee chosen as a possible candidate for redundancy.

She told the hearing that her male boss, Sam May, regularly ordered her to clean the building's toilets and kitchens.

"He made me clean the dirty toilets," she said. "On one occasion I refused because the men's toilets were blocked and overflowing and there was flooding and I said I would not go near it.

"I objected to touching faeces in the male toilet so one of the men went in and cleared the blockage with the handle of a broom.

"Sam called me a b*tch and a wh*re and a silly cow. I was angry and upset and hurt within myself by being put through that abuse."

The tribunal ruled that Miss Crosbie had been a victim of sexual discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal by Wolseley UK, the owner of Plumb Center.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Liesel Whitfield from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Employers are under a duty to ensure that no employee is subject to less favourable treatment or harassment by virtue of various characteristics including their gender.

"Where such conduct occurs employers can face the risk of discrimination claims and compensation is potentially unlimited. Also, individual employees can be the subject of claims if they have conducted themselves in a discriminatory or harassing way, and if the employer seeks to use the "statutory defence" by saying that the employee was acting well outside the remit of their duties, and then the employee can be left to defend the claim against them on their own."