12 March 2015
Where an employee is subjected to separate acts of harassment, can an employee’s subsequent resignation also amount to an act of harassment? The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) recently had to consider this issue in Timothy James Consulting Ltd v Wilson  UKEAT 0082/14.
The Claimant, Miss Wilton had a successful career in the recruitment industry. She joined Timothy James Consulting Ltd (“TJC”) in 2007 and was eventually appointed as a director of TJC, together with two other directors. One of those directors was Mr O’Connell.
Mr O’Connell and Miss Wilton formed a personal relationship. That relationship later broke down and Mr O’Connell formed a personal relationship with a member of Miss Wilton’s team. Miss Wilton was concerned about the effect of that relationship on the team and openly expressed her concerns to Mr O’Connell.
The EAT heard how Miss Wilton was subjected to criticism by Mr O’Connell, he alleged that she was jealous of his relationship with a member of Miss Wilton’s team and called her a “green eyed monster.” On a separate occasion, he also threw a pen at Miss Wilton and her colleague. Tension grew between Mr O’Connell and Miss Wilton until she eventually resigned from her position at TJC.
At employment tribunal, Miss Wilton succeeded with her claims of constructive dismissal and sex discrimination. Leaving the specific acts of sex discrimination aside, the tribunal held that Miss Wilton’s constructive dismissal could also amount to harassment. This was rejected on appeal to the EAT. The EAT held Miss Wilton’s constructive dismissal could not, on a correct interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, amount to an act of harassment.
This case offers clarification on constructive dismissals and harassment. It also acts as a useful reminder to employers that what may be considered as harmless name calling could also amount to harassment. Employers may wish to update their policies to provide examples of behaviour which is not considered acceptable in the workplace.