Tribunal finds Tutor was victim of sex discrimination

A Employment Tribunal Judge highlighted a charity’s assumption that women were ‘better suited’ to a task. A French tutor who was asked multiple times by managers to address an issue of personal hygiene with an adult male student was a victim of sex discrimination, according to the tribunal.

The former employee worked for a charity providing French classes to elderly people, told the tribunal she believed she was asked to do this because the managers believed it would be more suitable for a woman to address hygiene issues with students.

The tribunal found this as true and said there was “a level of conscious or unconscious assumption that women were better suited to that task”, and that on all occasions there was at least one man who would have been able to perform that task.

Additionally, both the tribunal and the charity’s current CEO felt that on some of the occasions it “would have been more appropriate for the manager ([of] either sex), not a tutor, to deal with the issue”.

Although she did not raise a grievance at the time, the claim of harassment related to sex alongside several other claims after she parted ways with the charity following the charity’s decision to end its relationship with her. (The charity cited the failure to report a safeguarding issue as one of the reasons for ending the relationship, and the tribunal found that “no part” of the charity’s decision to stop engaging with the former employee was to do with her sex.)

The tribunal found the comment had the effect of creating a “somewhat humiliating environment”, and that it amounted in law to harassment. However, it was brought six months out of time, and so failed. Even so, the award made was £4,000 plus £1,000 interest for “personal injury to feelings” relating to the claim about personal hygiene. All other claims failed. Had they been brought in time the damages would have been significant.

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