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Injury to Feelings Award – £14,000
Following the recent EAT (Employment Appeals Tribunal) decision of AA Solicitors Ltd (t/a AA Solicitors) and another v Majid it was held that Tribunals are entitled to take into consideration evidence of changes to rates of inflation, when considering the boundaries of the Vento bands.
Summary of the Facts
The case surrounded the employment of Ms Majid who commenced employment with AA solicitors in or around 2013. During the course of her employment Ms Majid was subject to approximately 40 sexual harassment acts by Mr Ali Mr Aliwas the sole solicitor practitioner of the Firm. This included examples of asking her to go out to the cinema, talking about installing a bed in one of the rooms at the office, squeezing and rubbing her hands when shaking hands and making her feel uncomfortable by these types of act.
Notably when Ms Majid rejected these advances, it was found that she had been subjected to an erroneous redundancy exercise and was subsequently dismissed. There was evidence that during this period Ms Majid had made visits to her GP relating to stress and anxiety caused by the harassment and exacerbation of an irritable bowel syndrome condition from which she suffered.
In pursuit of her claims against AA Solicitors, the Tribunal concluded that Mr Ali had abused his position of authority and been found to make a number of unwarranted sexual advances towards Ms Majid. As a result of these findings, the Tribunal concluded that Ms Majid would be awarded the following compensatory awards:
- £2,111 for loss of earnings;
- £14,000 compensation for injury to feelings (subject to a 10% uplift because of inflation); and
- £4,000 in aggravated damages.
AA Solicitors sought to appeal the decision on grounds that the award for injury to feelings was manifestly excessive and that these types of awards should be purely compensatory and not characterised as “untaxed riches”.
EAT Decision on Injury to Feelings Award
Following detailed submissions from the Respondent’s Solicitors, the EAT concluded that the conduct of Mr Ali, was sufficient so as to have violated Ms Majid’s dignity as a worker. The actions and harassment displayed by Mr Ali constituted a demeaning and disrespectful treatment of Ms Majid. It was also noted that when Mr Ali’s advances were refused he turned against Ms Majid resulting in her loss of employment from the Firm.
It was held that in respect of the case which had been presented to the Employment Tribunal they were very well placed “to make its assessment and fine-tune its assessment of what the right level of award was. ” As such, there was no suggestion that the award was in the wrong Vento band entirely.
Whilst it was accepted by the EAT that another Employment Tribunal may have sanctioned a lower injury to feelings award within the middle Vento band, this did not conclude that the award was manifestly excessive so as to justify the interference of the EAT.
The decision demonstrates the EAT’s reluctance to interfere with a Tribunal’s determination on an injury to feelings award, save for where the view is excessively high or low. Tribunal’s are therefore not required to obtain guidance from the higher courts when determining inflation for the Vento guidelines award.
Employers should be aware that the EAT further endorsed the view that an application of a 10% increase in the injury to feelings award, to account for inflation, can also be applied.
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