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Case Studies

CASE STUDIES

2003: Horkulak v- Cantor Fitzgerald International.  Damages were awarded in this case of 1M in salary and bonuses.  The employee was under-performing but, sadly, instead of addressing his performance his manager decided to use bullying and belittling tactics.  The High Court took the view that the manager's behavior destroyed the relationship of trust and confidence and the employee was regarded as having been Constructively Dismissed.  The Judge did give consideration to the use of foul language that was commonplace in this particular workplace.  Even though it was considered `the norm' the Judge found it most unacceptable.  So, any employers using `old style' aggressive management in the belief that it is excusable take heed!   This case was a double whammy for CFI.

2003: Beadles Group Ltd v- Angelica Graham.  178,000.  The Guardian called it Sexual Bullying.  The Daily Mail called it Sex Discrimination.  Lawyers refer to the case as Sexual Harassment and say the payout is believed to be one of the highest awards ever, reflecting its seriousness.  Whatever you call it, it was gross negligence and irresponsibility on the part of the Employer, who has a Duty of Care for all employees and that includes temporary workers and contractors too!   Trainee Sales Executive, Ms Angelica Graham, was awarded 178,000 due to the conduct of her line manager, car salesman Ralph Marriott, during her first week at work.   Marriott was ordered to pay 7K of the award personally. Quite right too. The Employer, Beadles Group Ltd., had no written policy on sex discrimination, harassment or equal opportunities and neither did it provide training, guidance or advice to employees on the seriousness of bullying and harassment.  The Employer was therefore completely liable, as they had failed to take appropriate steps to protect their employees and prevent harassment from occurring in the workplace.

13 December 2002: Recruitment Consultant, Swindon.  In this case, the Employment Tribunal in Bristol unanimously rejected an action for breach of contract against a large recruitment agency in Swindon. The claim arose following the suspension of a manager, who was suspected of bullying members of staff. The manager's conduct was investigated discreetly, appropriately and thoroughly and in accordance with ACAS guidelines but she refused to cooperate with the investigation and resigned (in anger) and then lodged a tribunal claim. The Tribunal found that the manager had wasted the Court's time and she was ordered to make a contribution towards the employer's legal costs. The Chairman of the Tribunal said that employers cannot afford to ignore bullying and harassment and the agency were right to investigate matters. The defence was handled by a Bristol firm of Solicitors and was supported by Swindon-based HR & Diversity Management Limited, an HR Consultancy who advised the agency from the initial bullying investigation through to the employment tribunal hearing.

22 March 2001: in Johnson v. Unisys. The Law Lords have decreed that they see "no reason why, in an appropriate case, it [the amount of compensation] should not include compensation for distress, humiliation, damage to their reputation in the community or to family life". This is the first time a judgment has indicated that unfair dismissal claimants might be compensated at tribunal for injury to feelings. At present there is a 51,700 ceiling on awards for unfair dismissal which cannot be breached, and the average award of a couple of thousand pounds is only for loss of earnings until the applicant finds, or the tribunal believes s/he should have found, a new job. This is in sharp contrast to harassment and discrimination claims on which compensation is theoretically unlimited.  Richard Lister, of Lewis Silkin, comments that if "someone has been frog-marched out of the office in front of their colleagues they could argue that this damaged their reputation and seek appropriate compensation. If someone had been through a dismissal that was so traumatic that it brought on a stress-related illness and they had medical evidence, they could get a very significant award."

4 May 2001: the case of Long v Mercury Mobile Communications Services. This case establishes a precedent of one stress breakdown rather than the two stress breakdowns required by the judgment in Walker v. Northumberland County Council. Jeffery Long was a successful telephone procurement manager with no previous history of psychiatric injury. He was asked to provide a confidential report, which implicated his line manager, Simon Stone, in mismanagement. The report was disclosed to his line manager who then immediately carried out a "vendetta" against Mr Long with the probable intent of driving him out of the company. This vendetta involved wrongfully blaming him for the mismanagement, taking important procurement contracts from him, making unfounded allegations against him of abusing customers and breach of confidence resulting in suspension, and placing orders without authority. The Claimant complained to the Personnel Manager about this conduct but not about the effect it was having upon him. The Personnel Manager in turn complained to the Managing Director who did nothing because he favoured Stone. Eventually, the Claimant was separated from Stone by being demoted. Mr Long suffered an adjustment reaction. The Defendants had to admit liability on the third day of the trial and fought damages. The Judge expressed his agreement with the Defendant's admission and went on to award 327,000.00 damages with indemnity costs.

11 January 2000: former senior housing benefits officer Roderick McLeod. Mr McLeod accepted 200,000 in an out-of-court settlement for psychiatric injury culminating in a stress breakdown caused, he alleged, by bullying, harassment and abuse of his line manager Susan Claydon at Test Valley Borough Council in Andover, Hampshire, England.

21 February 2000: former fire-fighter John Richards from Neath, Glamorgan South Wales, accepted record six-figure damages believed to be in excess of 150K for psychiatric injury caused by bullying and victimisation by fellow fire-fighters at West Glamorgan Fire Service. The focus of the victimisation appeared to be one senior officer who was described by the occupational health doctor as "a fascist bastard" and by a counselor as "a pig" (Daily Mail, 22 Feb 2000, p23).

March 2000: in Harvest Press Ltd v. McCaffrey, Mr McCaffrey had walked out of the workplace after harassment by a fellow worker. He reported the harassment and was told to come back to the workplace; McCaffrey said he would only return if the employer would take action against the harassment and thus guarantee his safety. The employer took the harasser's version of events and sacked McCaffrey for refusing to return to work. The EAT judged that McCaffrey had been unfairly dismissed. The court decided that section 100(1)(d) of the Employment Rights Act (1996) applied and that the "circumstances of danger" applied to any danger, including that of harassment by a fellow worker, not just physical dangers relating to work premises.

Britain's first personal injury case for the psychiatric injury caused by bullying, Walford v. Ford Motor Company, was settled out of court in February 1998. Settlement was conditional on a gagging clause.

Without doubt, employees who bully or harass colleagues at work, in your organisation, are a liability.

Sadly, also, managers who are unable to manage these issues, in your organisation, are also a liability !

 

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