|What is the issue?|
Sex discrimination legislation allows for an award for injury to feelings to be made. This award is usually made against the employing company but can also be made against any individuals named as parties to the litigation for their own acts of discrimination as well as the discriminatory conduct of other employees under their control.
|What did the Court of Appeal decide?|
In the case of Miles v Gilbank the Court of Appeal upheld the Tribunal’s decision that Ms Miles, the senior manager of a hair salon, was personally liable for a maximum compensatory award of £25,000 for injury to feelings for discriminatory conduct committed by her and other managers under her control with her encouragement.
Surprisingly, this award which is at the top end of the scale, was given even though the Court of Appeal stated that ‘there are clearly more serious cases’. The Court of Appeal found that the award was not excessive given that the well-being of the unborn child was involved and this in turn caused additional stress to the expectant mother.
As senior manager she had ‘consciously fostered and encouraged a discriminatory culture to grow up’. By doing this she had gone beyond creating an environment where discrimination occurred. The culture that existed was a result of her behaviour.
The Court of Appeal unanimously held that because of this behaviour Ms Miles was personally liable for 100% of the award, both for her own conduct and for that of others.
|What does this mean for employers and senior managers?|
Employers should take this opportunity to remind senior managers of their responsibilities to take action against discrimination in the workplace. The consequence of this case would seem to be that if a senior manager is aware of discriminatory conduct he or she should take action against it in order to avoid claims of being involved in fostering a discriminatory culture in the workplace.
Companies should ensure that managers have had up-to-date equal opportunities training. Such training should raise awareness of the potential for personal exposure.