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Salesperson wins sex discrimination claim

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Stannard v Overseas Courier Service Mrs S Stannard was found to have been constructively dismissed. She was employed as a salesperson at a courier firm and was subjected to ‘demeaning’ and explicit sexual comments.

The company was a male dominated organisation at senior level. Stannard says that a sexist culture existed which was reflected by the inappropriate comments that were often made to her and other women. Throughout her employment which began when she was 22 years old, male colleagues regularly made comments about her appearance. The comments were of a type that were not made to male colleagues; the type of comments made were on the length of her legs, how tall she was, and the size of her breasts during pregnancy.

When she informed the company directors of her pregnancy, one allegedly joked that she should take back her comment so that he could make her redundant.

In 2017, Stannard suffered a slipped disc and was off work for three weeks. Upon returning, she needed to attend physiotherapy sessions during her work hours. Her work came under scrutiny at this point, with the company directors claiming that she needed to work additional hours to make up the physiotherapy time and work in the office on Fridays, rather than at home as she had been doing to several years. She said that after her injury there was a “step change” in the way she was treated at the firm.

She told the tribunal: “the amount of times the directors shouted at me during the last few months of my working for the business and reduced me to tears was extraordinary.”

The ET found many of the comments directed at the claimant during her time at the firm were at times “insulting, other times lascivious, other times attempts at humour but always demeaning and unwanted”.

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