Spooky season is upon us and Halloween is just around the corner, so to keep with the theme we thought we’d share some scary HR nightmares that took place over the last month. We’ve picked three HR nightmares and given you some advice on how you can avoid making these mistakes in your business.
- UK employee wins £37,000 after she was dismissed for menopausal troubles
As World Menopause Day was just last week, this case seems even more poignant. In this case 49-year-old Karen Farquharson, a menopausal woman, received £37,000 of compensation after an employee tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed and subject to harassment in the workplace.
Karen’s menopausal symptoms began in August 2021 when she started to suffer from anxiety, lack of concentration and brain fog. In December 2022 she worked from home for two days, one of these due to heavy snow and one due to heavy menopausal bleeding. She claimed that on her return to work her boss, Jim Clark, gave her a ‘disgusted look’ and said everybody has ‘aches and pains.’ He had also told her that she used her menopause as ‘an excuse for everything.’
The panel at the tribunal found that Jim’s remarks had violated Karen’s dignity and agreed that Jim had ‘little time or respect for those, unlike himself, who are not able to work as hard or without illness.’
This case really shows the importance of providing a workplace that is supportive of employees that are going through the menopause.
As an employer you can educate yourself on how best to deal with menopause in the workplace. We recommend implementing a menopause policy as this will really help to create a supportive work culture around an issue that affects almost 50% of the workforce.
- £ 1million pay out for asthmatic lawyer who was sacked after taking time off sick
This next nightmare case really highlights the importance of respecting your employee’s working hours as set out in their contract. Again, it is also shows just how important it is to listen to and address your team members’ health concerns.
Gulnaz Raja won a seven-figure sum against her former employer, Starling Bank, when she was sacked by boss Matt Newman. An employment tribunal held that her career was ‘thrown severely off course’ by her bosses decision. Raja’s workplace had a culture of working long hours, and though Raja didn’t stay in the office beyond her contracted hours she would still log on and work late into the evening after getting home.
It was heard that Raja even worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day – though she had only recovered from the flu a few days earlier. When Raja was later ill her boss, Newman, had little patience. Raja developed a cough due to the air conditioning in her the office; as an asthma-sufferer she asked to be moved to a desk further away from the vents. Starling did not respond to this request, nor did they respond to later requests Raja made to attend asthma-related appointments. Her request to work from home was also declined.
Raja was branded as ‘not a starling person’ who showed ‘no interest and aptitude’ in certain responsibilities and was later sacked by Newman. Though claims of unfair dismissal and victimisation were rejected by the tribunal Starling was ordered to pay Raja a total of £1.145 million. This amount was comprising a mixture of lost earnings, and injury to feelings, as well as an additional sum to cover the amount of tax Raja would be required to pay.
- Lesbian claims she was passed over for promotion at Starbucks because she’s gay and looks like a boy
Our final mention is coffee giant Starbucks, who have been accused of unlawful discrimination and retaliation. Jahmelia “Jay” Peters is suing Starbucks after she was passed over for promotion and then fired because she is ‘gay’ and ‘looks like a boy.’
Peters said she’s said these remarks were told to some of her colleagues. Peters also claims that the straight female employee who was given the promotion, neither wanted it nor had the experience for it. Instead, she was promoted because of the manager’s ‘inappropriate flirtatious interest’ in her.
This allegation has been branded as a human rights issues by Peters’ lawyer, Bennitta Joseph. Joseph expressed that Peters was denied the civil right to fair treatment based on her ‘gender expression, identity and her sexual orientation.’
This case is still yet to have its day in court, but it brings awareness to how important equality in the workplace is. You can have a read of our article on discrimination to help you understand how this can present in the workplace.
So there we have it, three HR nightmares that show the importance of getting your HR right! Do you have a HR horror story you need some help with? Looking to avoid a nightmare scenario with a some useful advice? Get in touch on 0333 014 3888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our expert HR services and friendly advice.