A lawyer, 31, who filed 42 discrimination and harassment complaints to an employment tribunal has lost her case, with the judge warning against ‘A culture of hyper-sensitivity’.
Nirosha Sithirapathy, a £100,000-a-year lawyer at science and engineering company PSI CRO UK Ltd, was told at the hearing her case had failed despite the allegations.
Employment judge Emma Jane Hawksworth told her comments made to her by her boss did not amount to harassment.
The tribunal heard manager Martin Schmidt asked Ms Sithirapathy why she was reluctant to move to work in another country by stating ‘you are not married, you don’t have children and you do not have a boyfriend’.
The panel was told the executive then went on to tell her staff in the overseas office he was suggesting she relocate to were ‘tolerant’ of lesbians.
But it acknowledged the comments were ‘clumsily put’, it dismissed Miss Sithirapathy’s harassment claim. Her sexuality was not disclosed at the hearing but she is understood to be married to a man.
Judge Hawksworth said: ‘The comments were unfortunate and awkward. However, we bear in mind the importance of not encouraging a culture of hyper-sensitivity or of imposing legal liability to every unfortunate phrase.’
Nirosha Sithirapathy was a lawyer at science and engineering company PSI CRO UK Ltd
The hearing in Reading, Berks, was told Miss Sithirapathy began working for local science and engineering company PSI CRO UK Ltd in 2014, aged 25.
In November 2016, Mr Schmidt, the country manager and chief financial officer for the PSI group, offered her a position with the company’s Swiss head office where she would have a yearly salary of almost £100,000.
The tribunal heard she told him she was ‘not interested’ in the opportunity for ‘personal reasons’.
Mr Schmidt then retorted – in what Judge Hawksworth said were ‘very blunt’ and ‘clumsily put’ remarks – by saying ‘you are not married, you don’t have children and you do not have a boyfriend’.
He went on to tell her an anecdote about the Swiss office’s ‘tolerance’ of lesbian staff members, the panel heard.
The tribunal was told Miss Sithirapathy was ‘shocked’ and the discussion made her ‘uncomfortable’.
The following year during an appraisal meeting, Miss Sithirapathy was denied a promotion as she was at the ‘beginning of her career’, ‘young’ and was told she ‘needed to be patient with herself’, the tribunal heard.
She then complained about this – as well as Mr Schmidt’s comments.
Employment tribunal in Reading ruled against her and spoke of danger of ‘hyper-sensitivity’
Miss Sithirapthy’s tribunal claims
– Unfair dismissal
– Wrongful dismissal in relation to notice period
– Unauthorised deduction from wages/breach of contract in respect of the period from 1 to 3 September 2017
– Direct discrimination because of age and/or sex
– Harassment related to age
– Sexual harassment/harassment related to sex;
– Harassment related to sexual orientation by perception
However, in May of that year, after a change of heart she signed a contract, accepting a role as manager of the real estate portfolio in Zug, Switzerland which she was ‘very excited’ about, the tribunal heard.
Miss Sithirapathy left the British arm of the company and started with PSI CRO AG in the Swiss town in September 2017 but she was sacked a month later because of a ‘reorganisation of the department’, the panel heard.
She then brought proceedings against this decision in Switzerland but the Cantonal Court ruled her sacking was not abusive and dismissed her complaint – a decision the UK tribunal agreed with.
Miss Sithirapathy – who attended the School of Oriental and African Studies in London – had tried to get her old job back but she was told that this was not possible as the position had been filled.
At the tribunal she claimed she had been forced out of the job but it ruled her employment had ended by ‘mutual agreement’.
Miss Sithirapathy later filed 42 discrimination allegations, sexual harassment, harassment relating to age and/or sexual orientation and victimisation claims to an employment tribunal.
But the panel dismissed them, concluding: ‘The comments were unfortunate and awkward.
‘However, we bear in mind the importance of not encouraging a culture of hyper-sensitivity or of imposing legal liability to every unfortunate phrase.
‘We have concluded that, in this case, taking into account the context of the discussion, these comments did not cross the line such that they amounted to unlawful harassment.
‘Miss Sithirapathy was shocked and the discussion made her uncomfortable, as she did not know how Mr Schmidt knew personal information about her.
‘However, Mr Schmidt said, and we accept, that he would have made the same comments to a male employee.
‘Mr Schmidt was not commenting on Miss Sithirapathy’s relationship status or sexual orientation, he was seeking to convey his understanding about the claimant’s family commitments in the UK.
‘Mr Schmidt in particular spoke very bluntly to the claimant. We have considered the allegations of harassment carefully.
‘Some of the comments made to Miss Sithirapathy were very unfortunate and clumsy. However, we have concluded that they did not cross the line such as to amount to unlawful harassment.
‘We have therefore concluded that the claimant was not subjected to discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Those complaints fail and are dismissed.’
Source: Daily Mail UK