The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed that a solicitor and his law firm must pay more than £20,000 in damages to a female employee after he sexually harassed her, including asking her to marry him during her initial interview.
Asghar Ali, 47, who heads up AA Solicitors in Bolton, is said to have treated Sunna Majid as “a woman evidently to be present in the office for his pleasure and gratification, rather than to work”, according to Mr Justice Kerr.
Majid claims that during her initial job interview Ali asked her “what her star sign was, and, probably in a joking manner, proposed marriage despite the fact that he was already married”.
After she accepted the job, Ali bombarded Majid with out-of-hours messages and suggestive comments, including asking her whether she was “spoken for”, requesting photographs of her, and telling her there were double showers in his office. On one occasion, Ali also told her that he intended to have a bed installed in one of the offices for the two of them to share.
Majid told an employment tribunal that, although she “politely rejected” his advances, he “turned nasty”.
Majid was made redundant from AA Solicitors shortly after she falsely informed Ali that she had a boyfriend. She was told by Ali that the company could not pay her at that time because of cashflow problems.
In July 2014, Ali and AA Solicitors were jointly ordered to pay Miss Majid more than £20,000 compensation, including £14,000 for injury to feelings, aggravated damages of £4,000 and loss of earnings of £2,111, plus interest, by the employment tribunal.
The EAT has now rejected a challenge by Ali and his law firm, and stated that Majid deserved the compensation.
Mr Justice Kerr said during the appeal: “Majid was a young woman at the start of her professional career, and Mr Ali was an older man in a position of power and authority. From the first meeting in the job interview, he treated her in a demeaning and disrespectful manner; as a woman evidently to be present in the office for his pleasure and gratification, rather than to work and develop her skills as a lawyer.
“We consider that any reasonable person would regard the law as deficient if it did not mark such conduct with awards that recognise how humiliating it is for a worker to lose her job because she is not willing to play a sexually charged role allotted by her employer.”
Barrister Stephen Willmer, who stood for Ali and his firm, argued the payout was “too generous” and ought to be decreased.
The judge dismissed the appeal, adding that, despite her unfortunate experience, Majid was “not out of work for long” and had quickly found employment with another law firm.
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