"Managing People with Morecrofts"

How sexist comments can cost a business over £10,000

by Thomas Sutherland

Thomas Sutherland - Emplyment and HR

The Personal Assistant of a Chief Executive who remarked ‘I only employ beautiful woman’ has been awarded £10,500 for sex discrimination in an employment tribunal.

The Chief Executive, David Noakes, had left the CV of Personal Assistant, Lucia Pagliarone, on his desk with a handwritten note attached.  This note, which Ms Pagliarone found shortly after starting her period of employment, stated “Red lipstick, heels – good; tattoos – do not approve; wearing a dress – excellent”.  

Mr Noakes was guilty of further derogatory comments about women, including a statement to the effect that he would only be polite to female colleagues ‘if they were good-looking’.

Further, Mr Noakes was cited as having made the following statements in relation to justifying the rejection of two female job applicants:

•‘We can’t hire her because she is ugly, overweight and I only employ beautiful women’

•‘How are we supposed to hire her?  Did you see what she was wearing and the size of her? She can’t represent us’

Once the tribunal was satisfied that Mr Noakes had made the above statements, it regarded those statements as insulting, gender-specific comments which led to an intimidating and humiliating working environment for Ms Pagliarone due to her female gender.

Interestingly, the tribunal also found it “breathtaking” that the company in question did not have a single applicable policy or procedure.  This is a reminder to employers of the importance of having effective policies and procedures for when there is the potential for dispute in the workplace.

This case makes clear the risk of a sex discrimination claim being brought against an employers for the actions of one of its employees.  This is the case even where some of the statements are made in relation to individuals other than the complainant.

The best way of reducing the risk of a sex discrimination claim?  Consider providing your staff with equality training and enforcing well-drafted Equality & Diversity and Bullying & Harassment policies.

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