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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Wood

Solicitor is awarded £159k in compensation over equal pay claim

After raising a complaint with her employer about unequal pay over a period of 5 years compared with a male colleague, with the complaint resulting in her dismissal, a female solicitor raised a claim for sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal.  These claims were successful and as a result she has been awarded £159k in compensation.

 

During employment, the solicitor was promoted at the same time as her male colleague, however it was claimed that as she took on more managerial tasks and as a result her workload was heavier.  It was during this time that she found out her colleague was paid £2,000 per year more than her.  When she raised the matter of the unequal pay, her manager claimed the pay difference was because her colleague was older than her.  However this was not the reason relied on by the employer at the hearing.

 

After pursuing the matter, it was raised at board level and it was agreed to equalise her pay, but not to backdate it – at this stage the pay discrepancy had been ongoing for five years.

 

During employment, she also stated that she had been subjected to a campaign of victimisation after raising the matter of unequal pay.  This included being called ‘pushy’ and ‘overly dominant’ by male colleagues.  Additionally, after she told a male colleague she was pregnant, he discussed her pregnancy with another female colleague and said that ‘she should keep her legs shut’. 

 

She was also told that she couldn’t take on a particular case as the client had sexist views about women, suggestions that the reason a female client invited her to drinks was because the client was a lesbian, claims of being denied promotion and work on cases she wanted to be involved in.  She was subsequently signed off from work due to stress by her GP.

 

Shortly after she was signed off from work, she submitted a grievance that referred to a ‘catalogue of behaviour’ towards her that had occurred since she raised the issue of the unequal pay.

 

The Tribunal ruled that she received unequal pay and suffered unlawful sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

 

The Tribunal stated that the language they used to describe her was sexist, with other employees supporting that the comments made about her ‘would not have been made about a man who wanted to progress within the business and worked hard to achieve that’.

 

The Employment Judge said ‘what is described as banter or jokes can still be offensive’ and that in their judgement, she was dismissed ‘because of her grievance, her disclosures and her insistence in keeping the equal pay issue alive throughout the last year of her employment’.

 

As a result, she was awarded £158,860.41.

 

Caroline Wood, Managing Director of alphr says in a case like this, in order to avoid claims such as the above, parity with pay is vital, if claims are made, they should be addressed and resolved in a timely manner.  If fair pay is applied in the first instance, claims like these can be avoided.

 

But also here, what was perceived as banter by one person can be considered highly offensive by another person.  Care should be taken so as to avoid claims to ensure that comments aren’t offensive, and even if someone thinks they are funny, to someone else they may not be.

 

If you would like any further information on this article or would like to discuss your employment law and HR matters, please don’t hesitate to contact at hello@alphr.uk and we will be delighted to help you.

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