In the case of Ms X v Peter Vardy Ltd Ms X worked as a sales advisor at a large car showroom where many vehicles were on display. She worked as one of a team of 5 sales advisors and their direct reporting line was to a sales controller. The showroom has a number of sales teams, usually between 4 and 5 sales advisors in each team with the direct line manager being a sales controller. The sales controllers, in turn, report to the next level of management.
Potential customers are referred to as “guests” and they will be met on arrival by a member of staff who will then ask each guest to meet a sales advisor who can then provide assistance to the guest.
A panel heard evidence of an incident when Miss X was wearing a pencil skirt which had become creased on her drive to work. She claimed at a team meeting, her manager, referred to as Mr Y, gave her £20 and told her to buy an iron then go to an upstairs office to straighten out the skirt. He denied the allegations. She said she then went to the toilets where she was “upset and crying”.
Another senior manager, Darren Cuthbertson, was then alleged to have shouted: “You always have to make a drama and a big deal out of things.” Miss X said she drove to a nearby Tesco where she bought a skirt. The woman said Mr Cuthbertson described her as “a mess” and made her “turn around in a circle” in front of another manager, Alistair Page, when she returned.
She handed in her notice two days later when she felt she was being singled out after a group message was sent to staff telling them there would be a clothes inspection the following day. In her resignation letter, she wrote: “After feeling like I am being pushed out of the business I feel I can no longer work here and feel valued.”
In a grievance letter, she said: “Unfortunately I feel I am being bullied out of the business by someone who is meant to improve and motivate me as an individual. I feel that I can no longer pick myself up and am anxious every day when coming to work as I don’t know what to expect for the day ahead anymore.”
The tribunal ruled employers have a right to require a certain standard of dress but it was ‘significant’ that she was asked to twirl in front of the two managers in the office. Employment Judge Jane Garvie said: “We found the woman’s evidence compelling that she was asked to ‘turn around in a circle’ in front of [her boss] and [his colleague] and that [her boss] asked [his colleague] ‘what he thought of my attire.’
Ms X was awarded £9,383 in compensation.
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