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Sales consultant wins unfair dismissal claim after being sexually harassed and victimised by male colleagues

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Shirley Lyons v Starplan Furniture Limited Shirley Lyons, 60, had been working for kitchen and bedroom designer Starplan in Portadown, Northern Ireland, for four years when her previously good working relationship with colleagues turned sour.

An employment tribunal heard that the designer and sales consultant was the only woman to attend the company’s Christmas party in its showroom on December 16, 2017, along with six male employees.

Ms Lyons said that when the party moved on to a restaurant, she was subjected to unwanted sexual attention.

The tribunal found that one of her colleagues had made comments about her breasts and cleavage and hugged her from behind without her consent.

He also suggested to her that that they might have an affair and touched her bottom in the restaurant.

The tribunal was ‘satisfied that these matters amount to both verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature’.

Four days after the party, Ms Lyons reported to her line manager that she had been sexually harassed by a male colleague and she lodged a formal written grievance, the tribunal heard.

The panel upheld a number of complaints from Ms Lyons that she had been victimised by three colleagues following her complaint.

It said this included ignoring and excluding her, threatening to ‘take her down’ and intimidating and abusive language and behaviour.

Ms Lyons resigned from the company in April 2018 after nearly five years of service. Her case was heard that year and she was awarded £18,857.18 in compensation after her complaints of sexual harassment and victimisation were partially upheld.

The panel found her claim of unfair dismissal was well founded but lesser claims were not upheld.

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