Sexual assault at work

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Case study of a woman who successfully sued her employer after suffering a traumatic sexual assault at work.

 

We specialise in dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace claims on a national basis. Call freephone 0808 139 1606 for a free, no obligation discussion to find out your options or email us at [email protected]

 

Rachel Thain, a partner in our specialist abuse team, was approached by a woman who had been the victim of sexual assault at work by a male senior member of staff. This man had made sexual advances towards her, repeatedly groped her, demanded sex and used crude language.

She found the assault extremely frightening and traumatic. The following day, she felt unable to go to work for fear of this man and decided to report the assault to her employer. She also made a formal report to the Police. A criminal investigation followed and the man was charged with sexual offences. Thankfully, he pleaded guilty and the woman did not need to give evidence at a criminal trial. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

When reporting a serious crime such as a sexual assault at work, you would expect the matter to be dealt with in a sensitive and an appropriate manner. However, Rachel was saddened to hear that her client’s employer had laughed when she told them what happened.

During conversations with the woman Rachel discovered that the assault was not the first incident of inappropriate behaviour from this man. In fact, he had been behaving towards her in a sexual manner for a number of months before his conduct escalated to the assault.

Rachel agreed to represent the client in a claim against the employer on a no win, no fee basis. She explained that the employer was legally responsible for the behaviour of the man as the assault took place in the course of his employment with them. As well as pursuing a claim for the sexual assault at work, Rachel took into account the wider circumstances and argued that his conduct in the months leading up to the assault amounted to harassment, as defined under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Rachel’s experience and specialist knowledge in cases of sexual assault and sexual abuse ensured she was able to include all relevant factors within her client’s claim.

Evidence was gathered from the Police and a detailed letter was sent to the employer setting out the claim and why they were at fault. This resulted in the employer admitting legal liability and agreeing to compensate our client.

Medical evidence from an experienced psychiatric expert confirmed the full impact of what our client had been through and the ongoing effects of the ordeal upon her. It also included recommendations for psychological treatment. Rachel was determined to ensure her client should have the treatment she needed on a private basis. We also claimed lost earnings as she did not feel safe enough to remain working with this company after the assault.

Rachel was then able to negotiate a favourable compensation package for her client out of court. The initial offer made by the employer was too low, but we were able to secure a 50% increase on that figure.

Commenting on the case Rachel said:

“Although on the face of it this appeared to be a one-off assault,  discussions at the outset of the case revealed it was much more than that. This allowed me to include the additional distress caused to my client by this man in the months leading up to the final assault which resulted in a criminal conviction. While no amount of money can undo what happened, I am pleased to have been able to help my client secure funding for the specialist treatment she needs to support her recovery.

I was particularly disappointed in this case to hear my client’s report of how her employer treated her after the incident. To be laughed at when describing a frightening sexual assault at work is simply unacceptable. It highlights the need for further training and a change in attitudes to ensure that issues such as these are taken seriously and dealt with in a sensitive manner. The correct attitude towards such behaviour in the workplace can ensure that staff report any initial concerns that can be dealt with swiftly, before they escalate as happened in this case. Ultimately, education and understanding should ensure that employees such as my client can be kept safe while at work.”

If you have been affected by sexual assault or sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Rachel Thain on freephone 0808 139 1597 for a free, no obligation discussion to find out your options or email [email protected]