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Sex discrimination case flushed out of the Tribunal system with a £25,000 settlement

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A female council worker has settled her sex discrimination claim for £25,000.

Sharon Douglas was the only female employee at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. She worked in the technical services section of the council’s environmental services department and alleged that she was instructed to go to a different office, ahead of an inspector’s visit, to clean the kitchen and the toilets. She was told the toilets “needed a woman’s touch” despite the fact that cleaning was not within her job description. In addition, Mrs Douglas claimed that she was denied the same overtime and training opportunities as her male colleagues, and subjected to abusive language when she complained about it.

The council settled the case without admission of liability. The Equality and Human Rights Commission assisted with the case. It stated that the request to clean the toilets because they needed a “woman’s touch” amounted to a “direct and inappropriate reference to Mrs Douglas’s gender”.

The case is a helpful reminder that employers must ensure that they have appropriate policies and practices in place to protect their staff from similar treatment to that experienced by Mrs Douglas. It is also just as important to make sure that all staff understand the importance their employers place on implementing policies for avoiding harassment and discrimination within the ordinary course of work.