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Female investment management director loses sex discrimination claim after being told her trousers made her look ‘frumpy’

Compelling case of Ms. YZ v Greenland Investment Ltd, where a deputy design director’s journey from China to the UK took unexpected turns. Facing abrupt termination and challenges with her indefinite leave to remain (ILR) application, Ms. YZ contended with alleged forced resignation and workplace harassment. Dive into the intricate details of the tribunal’s findings, the company’s defense, and the surprising twists in her employment saga. Uncover how the tribunal addressed her claims and the ultimate verdict on her allegations. This article sheds light on a high-stakes employment dispute that reveals the complexities of workplace rights and immigration challenges.

In Ms Y Z v Greenland (United Kingdom) Investment Limited (1) Mr Ling Luan (2) Ms. YZ was employed as a deputy design director at Greenland Investment until her employment ended in March 2021. She had relocated to the UK from China for the role and approached the company’s CEO in May 2020 to seek support for her application for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK.

However, in July 2020, the company gave her notice of termination without following any procedure. In August, she encountered issues with her ILR application and informed the tribunal that Greenland had forced her to resign before it would provide support.

At a tribunal held last November, her former employer argued that it had advised her to hire a solicitor to assist with her ILR application and that discussions about potentially making her role redundant due to lack of work had taken place before August 2020. The company and its deputy HR director claimed Ms. YZ had offered to sign a resignation letter to protect the business against any future claims.

By October 2020, she was informed her position had been terminated and her employment had ended on 30 September 2020, when her Tier 2 visa expired. However, workloads at the company improved, and she was re-employed on 5 December 2020, receiving a new employee number. Her ILR was granted in January 2021.

Later that month, following Ms. YZ’s appraisal, there was a discussion about her being open to alternative work as much of her own work had diminished. She resisted the idea of being placed on furlough and was at risk of redundancy in February 2021. She submitted a formal grievance, but her employment ended on 11 March 2021 when Greenland made a deduction regarding holiday pay.

Her harassment claim was based on the company’s alleged failure to support her ILR application and a comment from the HR director that her trousers made her look like a “frumpy grandmother/auntie.”

In a judgment published last week, the tribunal concluded that she had not been subjected to less favourable treatment, noting that in many instances, Ms. YZ had raised a hypothetical comparator rather than an actual one. Regarding the comment about her trousers, it ruled that “such a comment was unwanted conduct related to sex” because it was inherently linked to gender and “had the purpose or effect of violating the claimant’s dignity.” However, the tribunal noted that this incident had occurred in November 2020, outside the time limits for lodging a claim with Acas or a tribunal.

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