We end this month’s update with another tale of the absurd. In the case of X v Volkerrail Ltd & Z a women succeeded in a claim of discrimination and was awarded £420,000 at the remedy hearing. X, the Claimant, was employed as a senior manager at Volkerrail, Respondent 1. The Claimant was from a conservative British-Pakistani family and lived with her parents. Z, Respondent 2, was her manager, was a married man and older than the Claimant.

During the Claimant’s employment, Respondent 2 commenced a series of inappropriate conduct against the Claimant. This started by sending inappropriate peach emojis (referring to her bottom) over Teams messenger. It then led to further and progressively more inappropriate conduct including:

  1. Sending her kissing emojis.
  2. Repeatedly texting her about her location during the evening when she was out visiting friends or family.
  3. Suggesting they move abroad together.
  4. Inviting her out to dinner.
  5. Calling her whilst inebriated.
  6. Becoming jealous of her friendship with another male manager.
  7. Alleging she was transexual as she required hormone treatment for polycystic ovaries.
  8. Becoming hostile towards her once the conduct was rebuffed.

Separately the Claimant was expecting a £15,000 pay rise having been given assurances of this by  Respondent 2 prior to the above conduct taken place. The Claimant raised a grievance about the sexual conduct. She then resigned having had her pay rise refused.

In the handling of the Claimant’s grievance it was found she was treated like a scheming femme fatale, only raising the matter due to the pay dispute. Respondent 1 also refused to rescind her resignation.

The Claimant was successful at hearing. It was found that the treatment by her manager and the conduct of the grievance were both discriminatory. This resulted in a high tribunal award including £24,000 injury to feeling and £30,000 due to psychiatric injury.

Previously it would be very uncommon for people to use emojis in a professional capacity. However with the rise of work related WhatsApp and Microsoft Team messenger groups rising they are becoming more common. This case highlights how staff should be reminded what is and is not appropriate.